Japan’s hopeless politics
The uncanny stickability of Japan’s prime minister
Jul 30th 2011 | TOKYO| from the print edition
ALREADY enduring its sixth prime minister in five years, Japan is overdue a seventh. Naoto Kan, the man at present on the inside of the revolving door, only stayed there by promising at the beginning of June to step down soon, in return for a stay of execution at a parliamentary no-confidence vote. For both the opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and his comrades in the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) the way he is lingering over his departure is exasperating.
For rival politicians (a category that includes virtually all of them), it is also rather frightening. As Japan struggles to cope with the disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear-power plant, Mr Kan has nailed his colours to the anti-nuclear mast, arguing that Japan needs to reduce its dependence on atomic energy. Oddly he later watered this down, by saying he was only expressing a personal view not a government policy. But other politicians fear that, rather than quit, he may call an election, campaign on the future of the nuclear industry and (such is the popular hostility to it) win. Goshi Hosono, an avowedly pro-nuclear DPJ technocrat whom Mr Kan appointed as minister in charge of the nuclear mess, says it is “not a good idea” to test the public on this issue.