Kan on the Way Out in Japan
As Kan Sets to Depart Succession Struggle Is Under Way

Naoto Kan with his anemic 15% popularity will soon be history and Japan's ruling party will be picking a successor.

Contact Editor
Amiel Ungar,

Seiji Maehara
Seiji Maehara


It looks as though Naoto Kan the Japanese Prime Minister is going to go off into the land of the setting sun.

If his 15% approval rating was not enough (30% has been terminal for the most recent Japanese Prime Ministers), there is the cancellation of a meeting between the Japanese Prime Minister and Barack Obama in early September due to "Japan's current political situation", as the chief cabinet secretary Yukio Edano announced.

In the expectation that a new leader will be selected quickly, the proposed a summit between Obama and the next Prime Minister now may be in late September and this will be the first summit between a Japanese Prime Minister and the American president since February 2009 when the Japanese Liberal Democratic Party was still in power.

Another sign thathe is going is that the two bills whose passage Kan sought before departing the stage are set to pass next week.

Finally, there is the maneuvering of a long list of candidates who view themselves suitable for the top post.

When the ruling Democratic Party of Japan gathers together to select a successor, whom they hope will enjoy greater popularity and longevity, the people casting the vote are the Diet legislators.

What is striking is that the DPJ, swept into office promising a politics different from the factionalism endemic of the former perennial Liberal Democratic Party, is behaving like its predecessor. Factional and personal interests may play a major part in the vote. Two powerbrokers within the party, Yukio Hatoyama, a former Prime Minister and Ichiro Ozawa, an influential figure who has had to recede into the background due to a financing scandal, look at the election as a chance for rehabilitation.

While a host of candidates have put forward their name formally and informally, the two candidates currently considered front-runners are former Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara and finance minister Hoshihiko Noda.

Maehara, active during the disputes over the Kuril Islands with Russia, took a temporary recess from government because he was implicated in a technicality in the campaign finance law. He still has not officially declared candidacy, but he has so far commanded the most support among the party's 47 prefect leaders with Noda coming in second. Most prefectures have reserved decision till they see the final list of candidates.

Another announced candidate is The Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, Sumio Mabuchi, 50.

While Maehara and Noda represent important policy ministries, Mabuchi represents a patronage-rich ministry, again reminiscent of the confrontations during the ascendancy of the LDP.