DPJ scrambles to avoid instability after election setback
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Posted 7/12/10 , edited 7/13/10
DPJ scrambles to avoid instability after election setback

Tuesday 13th July, 06:01 AM JST


Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s ruling party on Monday moved to allay any impression of political confusion following its electoral setback, exploring the possibility of keeping the current leadership intact and finding partners from the opposition camp based on each policy.

Kan, who heads the Democratic Party of Japan, discussed with other top party members ways to minimize the impact of Sunday’s losses and agreed that they will retain his cabinet members and the party’s leadership lineup for the time being, they said.

Kan said he has no plans to dissolve the more powerful House of Representatives, although some opposition parties are calling on him to do so following the DPJ’s setback in the upper house election.

‘‘I am not even thinking about it,’’ Kan told reporters at the premier’s office, referring to the possibility of calling for a snap election.

Kan said he will instead try to work more closely with opposition parties to implement necessary polices.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku also said the DPJ has no plans to change the party’s leadership lineup, including Secretary General Yukio Edano, for the sake of taking the blame for the party’s poor election outcome, which led the ruling coalition to lose an overall majority in the House of Councillors.

Sengoku said all cabinet members, including unseated Justice Minister Keiko Chiba, will keep their posts at least until the DPJ holds its leadership election in September.

The government’s top spokesman said changing Japanese political leaders over and over will not help the country to resolve its stalemate.

‘‘Following this new situation, we will probably writhe in considerable agony over how to shift the country’s politics,’’ Sengoku said. ‘‘But I believe that Japanese politics will not mature without overcoming this.’‘

Sengoku said ‘‘the most important’’ thing is making efforts to seek cooperation from opposition parties to avoid gridlock in Diet deliberations.

Edano himself expressed his intention to remain in the No. 2 post of the DPJ, which stays in power as it controls the more powerful House of Representatives.

Edano, speaking at a news conference following a meeting attended by DPJ executives, said Kan issued him with ‘‘strong instructions to fulfill’’ his duties as secretary general.

Kan’s cabinet members, including Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Masayuki Naoshima, were in favor of retaining their positions.

‘‘If we change the prime minister, or the (party) leadership, the public may feel ‘Not again!’ and we may also lose international trust,’’ Naoshima, who was reelected, told reporters. ‘‘This is a very tough decision. But I think it is better for us to work hard under Prime Minister Kan.’‘

The DPJ’s failure to maintain control of the upper house was triggered by Kan’s remarks suggesting a possible hike in the consumption tax in the years ahead to rein in Japan’s huge public debt.

Edano said he sees no need to stick to the goal, avowed by Kan before the election, of drafting by the end of fiscal 2010 a blueprint for a possible hike in the consumption tax. He added that it is necessary to approach the issue at a pace that would gain broad public understanding and consent.

Even so, pressure is mounting on Kan, Edano and other top DPJ leaders to step down to take responsibility for the electoral losses from within their own party.

If Kan fails to establish cooperative links with the opposition bloc, then he is likely to come under more pressures from within his party ahead of its presidency election in September.

The Liberal Democratic Party and other parties from the opposition front have shown no plans to cooperate with the DPJ.

‘‘I want you to cooperate well with other opposition parties’’ to fight the DPJ, LDP President Sadakazu Tanigaki told a meeting of party executives, which endorsed his continued leadership.

Among the 121 seats up for grabs in Sunday’s upper house election, the main opposition LDP won 51 seats, up from the 38 it had before.

In Sunday’s poll, the DPJ secured only 44 seats, despite Kan’s target of at least 54, the same number of the ruling party’s seats that were being contested in the triennial election, in which half the chamber’s seats are up for grabs.

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