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Japan’s unpopular Kan will step down
Prime minister undone by crises
Mr. Kan has been criticized for lacking leadership after the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear crisis, and survivors of the disasters complain of slow relief and recovery efforts. Polls show his approval rating is less than 20 percent.
Former Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara said Tuesday night that he wants to take over the leadership to restore public trust and hope, especially among disaster victims.
“We must regain public trust in politics and achieve policies that can help people’s sense of safety and hope for the future,” Mr. Maehara said.
Mr. Maehara was transport minister and foreign minister during Tokyo’s diplomatic spat with Beijing last year about small islands in the East China Sea claimed by both nations.
Earlier Tuesday, Mr. Kan told Cabinet members that his days are numbered and that they should be ready to resign en masse next Tuesday, Economy Minister Kaoru Yosano said.
“He said each minister should do the utmost to prepare for a smooth handover and take care of pending businesses,” Mr. Yosano told reporters.
Mr. Kan had promised in June to step down as soon as parliament passes two key bills - related to the budget and renewable energy - which it is set to do Friday.
That would allow a leadership election Monday within Mr. Kan’s ruling Democratic Party of Japan and a new prime minister — Japan’s sixth in four years. The party election campaign officially begins Saturday.
Japan’s new leader will have to rebuild the country from the triple disasters, tackle a surging yen that is threatening the recovery and map out a new energy policy that is less reliant on nuclear power.
A successor also will have to restore confidence in Japan’s alliance with the U.S. Tokyo recently canceled Mr. Kan’s U.S. visit for talks with President Obama, expected in early September, because of the political uncertainty.
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