Japan's Kan reconfirms intention to step down

Prime Minister Naoto Kan on Wednesday reconfirmed he intends to step down when bills to allow the government to issue deficit-covering bonds and promote the use of renewable energy sources are enacted.

"When the two bills are enacted, I'll carry out what I said I'd do" at an early June meeting of Democratic Party of Japan lawmakers and a subsequent press conference, Kan said at the Audit and Oversight of Administration Committee in the House of Representatives that morning.

Kan had expressed his plan to step down at the party meeting and media conference.

Kan's statement Wednesday came a day after the secretaries general of the DPJ and two main opposition parties, the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito, agreed to revise several key DPJ election pledges.

The three parties agreed that funds for abolishing expressway tolls would not be included in a budgetary request for next fiscal year. They also said the government would study necessary revisions to two other election pledges--abolition of public high school tuition fees and income compensation for individual farming households--in fiscal 2012 and thereafter, according to their memorandum of understanding.

The three-party agreement has paved the way for the deficit-covering bonds bill to pass the Diet by the end of this month. The bill was considered a major hurdle among the three conditions the prime minister said must be met before he would resign.

The deficit-covering bonds bill passed the lower house Financial Affairs Committee on Wednesday afternoon and is expected to be enacted on Aug. 24.

The bill to promote use of renewable energy sources is likely to pass the Diet before the current session ends Aug. 31.

Since the second supplementary budget for fiscal 2011 has already passed the Diet--the third condition Kan had listed as necessary for him to step down--passage of the two remaining bills would satisfy all three requirements by the end of this month.

Asked if he thought Kan would step down if the three conditions were met, DPJ Secretary General Katsuya Okada said Tuesday: "It's not 'I think.' He will step down from his post for sure."

Sources close to the prime minister also confirmed that Kan will announce his resignation after the deficit-covering bonds bill is enacted.

Kan announced his intention to step down as prime minister at the meeting of DPJ lawmakers on June 2, but avoided specifying the timing of when he would resign.

Recent opinion surveys, including one by The Yomiuri Shimbun, showed the public approval rating for Kan's Cabinet had dropped below 20 percent. Kan apparently feels that power must be transferred to a new administration in the near future given his lack of public support.

Increasing uncertainty in the global economy caused by a worldwide decline in stock values also likely affected his decision.

Okada and other DPJ leaders expect Kan will clarify the process of his resignation by announcing a DPJ presidential election at a press conference or at another opportunity.

They are considering holding the party presidential election on Aug. 28 on the assumption that Kan will announce his resignation on Aug. 25, a day after passage of the deficit-covering bonds bill, according to DPJ sources.

If Kan officially announces his resignation at the end of the current Diet session, the presidential election could be held Sept. 4, according to the sources.

Meanwhile, the LDP decided on its guidelines for revising the bill to promote renewable energy sources at a special committee Wednesday morning.

The DPJ, LDP and Komeito are scheduled to discuss the renewable energy bill based on the LDP's guidelines Thursday afternoon.

Since the government and the DPJ are expected to accept most of the revisions demanded by the LDP, the bill likely will be approved during the current Diet session. The DPJ on Wednesday decided to try to pass the bill through the lower house Friday.