Aso hit by resignation threat

Justice parliamentary secretary eventually issues retraction

by Masami Ito

Another headache surfaced for unpopular Prime Minister Taro Aso on Tuesday as Justice Parliamentary Secretary Chuko Hayakawa said he intended to resign after the fiscal 2009 budget passes.

After badgering from senior government officials, however, Hayakawa later retracted his words and said he would stay on.

Nevertheless, Hayakawa’s outburst underlined the growing inability of Aso to control the Liberal Democratic Party, which faces the prospect of entering a critical general election led by a prime minister with historically low approval ratings.

Hayakawa, a member of the largest LDP faction, led by former Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura, could have dealt a serious blow to Aso if other members had followed his lead.

In a blog entry posted Monday evening, Hayakawa called for “a realignment of political forces.”

“I intend to resign from the parliamentary secretary post once I have fulfilled my duties and the budget (for fiscal 2009) passes the Diet,” Hayakawa wrote.

“But this is not a revolt (against Aso) — it is just an expression of my will for independence,” he wrote.

Hayakawa said he had made the decision to stand on his own two feet and “will no longer be under anyone’s thumb.”

Cabinet members were quick to criticize him. Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura told reporters Tuesday morning it was thoughtless for Hayakawa to bring up the resignation on his blog.

“He is a parliamentary secretary and I think he should be more careful — even if it was just a blog, it was thoughtless of him to express his resignation on it,” Kawamura said.

Later in the day, Kawamura met with Hayakawa and told him to be careful about taking careless actions. But the government’s top spokesperson also said Hayakawa will not be fired.

In his blog entry, Hayakawa said regime change is necessary for Japan.

“What I am appealing is that whatever happens, a political realignment is necessary in order for Japanese politics to become stabilized and be well under way,” he wrote.

“All I am saying is that we need to move forward independently, eyeing the possibility of forming a new party, for a political realignment before or after the Lower House general election.”