Japan PM to offer to resign in autumn or later

Updated: 2011-06-02 11:48
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TOKYO - Embattled Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan - in danger of losing a no-confidence vote in parliament on Thursday - will offer to resign later this year after dealing with a nuclear crisis and other urgent matters related to the massive March earthquake and tsunami, domestic media reported.

Even if Kan - Japan's fifth premier in as many years - survives, a growing split within the ruling party would further handicap efforts to push policies through parliament, including politically sensitive tax reforms.

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The head of the tiny ruling coalition partner, the People's New Party, urged the unpopular premier to resign once he has extended the current parliament session and taken care of pressing disaster-related issues, and Kyodo news agency said Kan would offer to step down in the autumn or later in a meeting with party lawmakers.

But some rebels in the ruling party want Kan out sooner.

Kan, who took office almost exactly a year ago, is battling to control a radiation crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co's Fukushima nuclear plant, figure out how to pay for rebuilding the northeast region devastated by the tsunami, and craft tax reforms to pay for rising social security costs.

The opposition needs the backing of around 80 of the 305 lower house members from Kan's Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) to pass the motion in the 480-seat chamber. Passage of the motion would force Kan to resign or call a snap election.

The DPJ rebels, who dislike his abrasive style and fear he is becoming an electoral liability, want Kan to resign even before the vote to pave the way for a coalition with the opposition to break a parliamentary logjam.

"There has been talk that the prime minister may talk about resigning (at a meeting of DPJ lawmakers ahead of the vote), although I am not sure if he will do so right away," rebel DPJ lawmaker Kenko Matsuki told a TV show.

"In any case, it would be too late."

A lower house session to vote on the motion was to open at 1 pm (0400 GMT), with the vote expected around 3 p.m. (0600 GMT) after speeches for and against the motion.

The uncertain outlook was keeping financial markets on edge.

"The no confidence vote could swing either way and the market appears unsure of the outcome," said Yuji Kameoka, chief currency strategist at Daiwa Securities Capital Markets.

"The yen could be sold momentarily if the vote is approved. Even if the vote is defeated, a large numbers of ruling party defectors could still weigh on the yen against the dollar as it the market could take a more cautious view on the Japanese economy."

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