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A senior ruling party lawmaker suggested Saturday that the resignation of Prime Minister Naoto Kan should be considered as an option to gain Diet approval for bills vital to the fiscal 2011 budget.

“We need to prioritize the passage of the budget proposal over the DPJ, Kan and whoever,” said Kozo Watanabe, a “supreme adviser” in the Democratic Party of Japan.

While the budget proposal itself would eventually clear the Diet if the more powerful House of Representatives approves it, opposition parties, which control the House of Councilors, have said they would vote against the related bills that are necessary to implement the budget.

Watanabe, a former vice speaker of the Lower House, has been supportive of the Kan administration and critical of Kan’s rival, Ichiro Ozawa, who faces trial over his political funding scandal.

The DPJ leadership has suspended Ozawa’s party membership.

On the pro-Ozawa group, Watanabe said, “It must be a rule among lawmakers to protect Kan as we chose him as the leader at our general meeting.”

Earlier in the day, Watanabe ruled out the possibility of dissolving the Lower House for a general election, saying on TV: “The DPJ will definitely be defeated if the Lower House is dissolved now. I don’t think such a foolish situation will happen.”

In response to Watanabe’s comments, Tadamori Oshima, vice president of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party, said in Iwate Prefecture, “This is proof that confidence in the prime minister is fading within the DPJ.”

Meanwhile, Shizuka Kamei, leader of Kokumin Shinto (People’s New Party), the junior partner in the DPJ-led ruling coalition, separately predicted that it could become difficult for the Kan government to stay in power as it remains unclear whether the budget-related bills will gain Diet approval.

“This is not a situation that can be overcome by superficial measures,” Kamei said in Tokyo. “Even as the budget proposal is about to be voted on in the Lower House, the prime minister does not have a concrete plan of action.”

Prepping for election

An executive in the group of Democratic Party of Japan lawmakers led by Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara has instructed younger members to gear up for an early dissolution of the Lower House and a general election, according to sources.

The instruction was issued because there is little chance that the bills necessary to implement a significant portion of the fiscal 2011 budget will make it through the divided Diet.

The Maehara group, which includes Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano and Deputy DPJ President Yoshito Sengoku, is playing a major role in shoring up support for Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

The group executive issued the instructions to more than 10 younger members during a meeting in a Tokyo restaurant last week, sources said Friday.

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