PRICES GO UP AT THE GATE
The Democratic Party of Japan, led by Prime Minister Naoto Kan, stretched the ordinary Diet session for 70 days beyond its scheduled end on Wednesday, despite resistance from major opposition parties, in a bid to pass bills vital for the rebuilding of areas devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
DPJ Secretary General Katsuya Okada told his counterparts from the Liberal Democratic Party and the New Komeito party that the timing of Kan’s resignation is not tied to the extension. But the two opposition parties objected to the extension in parliament.
Regardless of their opposition, the extension was approved as it was supported by a majority of lawmakers in the powerful House of Representatives, which is controlled by the DPJ.
Lawmakers from smaller opposition parties also supported the extension to Aug 31.
However, without getting consent from the LDP and the New Komeito, it is almost certain that the DPJ-led government will lose the much-needed cross-party cooperation in the divided Diet, where the House of Councillors is dominated by the opposition camp.
It is likely that tensions between the DPJ and the two opposition parties will escalate at a time when Japan can afford no further delay in reconstructing the disaster-stricken areas in the northeast.
On Tuesday, after days of negotiations, the three parties struck a basic deal that Kan would step down in exchange for gaining cooperation from the LDP and New Komeito in passing the second extra budget and a bill needed for the government to issue deficit-covering bonds for fiscal 2011.
But the LDP and New Komeito now decided to scrap the deal, partly because they believe Kan, under fire for his perceived lack of leadership, is still trying to cling to power, according to lawmakers.
In addition to the disaster-relief budget and the bill needed for the government to secure about 40% of the revenue planned in fiscal 2011, Kan has shown strong resolve to pass a bill aimed at promoting the use of renewable energy.
He has also suggested his desire to get involved in the formulation of the third extra budget this summer.
In early June, Kan survived a no-confidence motion by promising to turn his job over to the younger generation, once certain progress is made in rebuilding the region devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami and containing the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. Still, he has not said exactly when.