In a country that has had six prime ministers in the last five years, Naoto Kan must be feeling like a veteran: he has lasted 270 days in office, which is 11 days longer than his predecessor, Yukio Hatoyama.
But his time may be up, too, after the resignation at the weekend of his foreign minister, Seiji Maehara,.
When the Guardian interviewed him recently, Maehara was seen as a rising star in the Democratic party, as it tries to cleanse itself of the taint left by its former leader Ichiro Ozawa, who was indicted in a political financing case.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Saturday he expects a new government in Egypt to be formed democratically, following President Hosni Mubarak’s sudden resignation.
"We hope Egypt will play an even more constructive role in the Middle East," Kan told reporters at his official residence. "I want to salute the fact that protesters’ peaceful activities have led to a change in government."
Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara told reporters in Moscow, where he is meeting Russian officials, that Japan expects a stable new government to soon be established in Egypt.
"Japan continues to attach importance to its relationship with Egypt and is eager to strengthen it. We will keep offering various forms of cooperation to the country," he said.
Since Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman said Friday in a televised speech that Mubarak had stepped down, Tokyo has been assessing the situation in the country, especially considering the safety of Japanese living there, government officials said.
Japan’s ruling party picked grass-roots populist Naoto Kan as its new chief Friday, paving his way to replace political blueblood Yukio Hatoyama as prime minister while the party struggles to reclaim public support ahead of July elections.
“My task is to rebuild this nation,” Kan said, stressing the need to spur economic growth and confront problems linking “money and politics.”
Kan, 63, was finance minister under the unpopular Hatoyama, who stepped down Wednesday amid plunging approval ratings over broken campaign promises and a political funding scandal. Because the Democratic Party of Japan controls the more powerful lower house of parliament, Kan was virtually certain to be chosen as prime minister by lawmakers later in the day.
As prime minister, Kan will face daunting choices in how to lead the world’s second-largest economy, which is burdened with massive public debt, sluggish growth and an aging, shrinking population. He must also rally voter support ahead of upper house elections that are due next month.
“We will work together as one in the face of the tough political situation and the upcoming upper house election and fight together unified,” he said.