Prime Minister Naoto Kan has decided to step down no later than August, sources close to him and the Democratic Party of Japan said Saturday.
Photo: Toru Hanai/Reuters
Based on Kan's decision, DPJ executives are aiming to hold an election in September to choose the next party president, who will take over as prime minister, the sources said.Kan appears to have come to the decision following the political consternation triggered by his remarks Thursday night suggesting that he planned to remain in office until January.
Kan and DPJ executives seem to have determined that they need to get the situation under control after senior DPJ members began to voice concerns over the prime minister's remarks. However, there are others urging Kan to step down immediately, and it is still uncertain whether he will be able to remain in the post until August, according to the sources.
Many veteran DPJ members, including former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and some Cabinet members, also questioned the strategy of Kan, who on Thursday signaled his willingness to stay on for the time being only hours after indicating he would step down.
Names emerging as likely candidates to succeed Kan include Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda, 54, and Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku, 65.
The move could prompt backroom negotiations involving the DPJ, the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito on the possibility of forming a grand coalition, as the two opposition parties have indicated their willingness to cooperate with the ruling camp once Kan resigns.
On Saturday night, Kan met with DPJ executive Hajime Ishii and said that he will stay in office long enough to enact a basic bill outlining the reconstruction of the disaster-hit Tohoku region, the second supplementary budget for fiscal 2011 and legislation to issue deficit-covering government bonds, according to Ishii.
Earlier in the day, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano denied Saturday that Kan will remain in office until the turn of the year and indicated he will step down by the summer, even as ruling and opposition lawmakers renewed calls for his immediate resignation.
"Nobody thinks he will stay (in office) until that late. (Kan) does not intend to hang on that long," Edano said on a political talk show on TV Tokyo, in reference to Kan's stated willingness to remain in office until January.
"His hope to hand over (the administration) to a younger generation before long is very clear," Edano said.
Regarding a planned visit by Kan to the United States slated for early September, Edano said the prime minister never confirmed he will attend the Japan-U.S. summit, suggesting he expects Kan to step down by the end of August.
LDP President Sadakazu Tanigaki said that Kan prolonging his resignation is "not a graceful way for the top leader to quit."
Nobuteru Ishihara, LDP secretary general, said the party will aim to oust the prime minister at the end of June, indicating it may submit a censure motion to the Upper House before the end of the month.