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Japan PM says will quit after quake crisis

03 june 2011, 16:30
Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan boosted his chances of surviving a no-confidence vote Thursday by promising his foes he would step down once the country has recovered from the quake disaster, AFP reports.

The centre-left leader -- Japan's fifth premier in as many years, days away from celebrating his first anniversary in the job -- was seeking to quell a revolt within his own party ranks that had put his future on a knife-edge.

Kan, 64, pledged to hand over his duties to younger politicians once Japan has recovered from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, a promise that appeared to mollify internal party foes and boost his chances of weathering the crisis.

"Once my handling of the earthquake disaster is settled to some extent and I have fulfilled my role to some extent, I would like younger generations to take over (my) various responsibilities," said the prime minister.

A block of lawmakers loyal to Kan's internal party rival, powerbroker Ichiro Ozawa, said they would support Kan, reversing their earlier threat to vote with the conservative opposition, the Kyodo and Jiji Press news agencies said.

Another Kan critic within the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), former premier Yukio Hatoyama, also signalled that the ruling party and nation should be united as Japan struggles with its worst post-war emergency.

Kan's ouster would perpetuate Japan's much-criticised revolving-door leadership as the world's number-three economy struggles with a nuclear emergency, flagging growth and a huge public debt mountain.

The opposition conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) -- which was ousted in 2009 after more than half a century of almost unbroken rule -- submitted the no-confidence motion late Wednesday with two small parties.

LDP leaders have accused Kan of bungling the response to the disaster that left more than 23,000 dead and missing and 100,000 still in shelters while sparking the world's worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986.

In order to push through the no-confidence motion by a majority vote in the lower house -- which would force Kan to either step down or call fresh elections -- the LDP would need the backing of around 80 DPJ rebel lawmakers.

Ozawa, a scandal-tainted powerbroker and one-time LDP heavyweight, had threatened to vote against Kan, and scores of loyal lawmakers looked set to follow suit, while DPJ party leaders fought hard to rein them in.

However, after the premier's offer to eventually stand down, Kyodo reported that they would now "reject in unison" the anti-Kan motion.

The premier had urged DPJ lawmakers in a pre-vote party meeting: "Let me fulfil my responsibilities until we see the (reconstruction) work near settlement. Let me meet this responsibility with all of you.

"For that purpose I sincerely urge members of the DPJ and the lower house to unite and reject the no-confidence motion tabled by opposition parties today."

Among smaller parties, the Buddhist-backed New Komeito and conservative Sunrise parties jointly submitted the no-confidence motion with the LDP.

The Social Democrat and Communist parties were expected to abstain, while the People's New Party and some independents were likely to back Kan.

The political infighting at a time of crisis has disgusted many Japanese.

The Asahi Shimbun daily said in an editorial that the Diet's duty is to make laws and a budget to speed disaster recovery and said "we feel strong resentment at the lawmakers who are brazenly playing power games."

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