Japan PM support falls to 55% according to latest poll

Public support for Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s government was at 54.6 percent, a Kyodo news agency survey showed on Sunday, down 8.2 percentage points in the first month after he took office.

Noda, Japan’s sixth premier in five years, enjoyed strong support right after he took over from his unpopular predecessor, but the 54-year-old premier had to sack his trade minister just a week after taking office due to gaffes.

His government is now trying to draft and submit to the divided parliament this month another extra budget to fund rebuilding efforts from a huge earthquake and tsunami that destroyed northeastern Japan and its Pacific coast in March.

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Japan’s Prime Minister Noda names new cabinet with eye on unity

Japan’s new prime minister on Friday assembled a cabinet that appears intended to curb political infighting as the government tries to guide reconstruction of the country’s disaster-hit northeastern coastline.

Yoshihiko Noda gave key cabinet posts to both those with ties to rival factions in the ruling party and those with ties to the leading opposition party. The appointments, analysts said, create the possibility of greater cooperation — and easier passage of legislation — following months of gridlock, squabbling and dwindling government credibility.

Noda’s cabinet lacks the experience of its predecessors, particularly with the appointment of little-known Jun Azumi as finance minister. It also skews toward lawmakers with conservative backgrounds, in a sign that his Democratic Party of Japan might be drifting away from the populist agenda that it brought to office in 2009, when it ended the Liberal Democratic Party’s half-century of domination.

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Nuclear power central topic in Japan PM race

A former top diplomat vying to become the next prime minister proposed Saturday that Japan stop building new nuclear power plants after the Fukushima disaster and phase out atomic energy over 40 years.

Former Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara took the clearest stand against nuclear power at a news conference where five ruling Democratic party members outlined their policy goals in their campaign to replace Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who announced Friday he is stepping down.

The ruling party will vote Monday to pick a new party chief, who will then become prime minister – Japans sixth in five years.

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Maehara’s Misstep May Become Blessing in Japan Leadership Race

Seiji Maehara’s resignation as Japan’s foreign minister on March 6 over a campaign financing violation forced him to put his political ambitions on hold. That setback may turn out to be a blessing.

Five days after he quit, an earthquake and tsunami wrecked Japan’s northeast, killing at least 15,000 people and causing a nuclear disaster that forced 60,000 from their homes. Prime Minister Naoto Kan, blamed by the opposition and Democratic Party of Japan colleagues for a slow reaction to a meltdown at an atomic power plant, has signaled he’ll resign as early as today, paving the way for an Aug. 29 DPJ leadership race.

“Maehara is untainted by the last five months of Kan’s administration and the disaster response,” said Jun Okumura, a senior adviser at the Eurasia Group in Tokyo, who added that Maehara will also benefit from being the public’s favorite to succeed Kan in opinion polls. “Many DPJ Diet members will be making their choice with the next election in mind.”

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Pressure mounts on Japan PM to quit

Pressure mounted on Sunday for unpopular Prime Minister Naoto Kan to step down soon and even a senior member of his own party warned the lameduck leader not to stay in office much longer.

Kan’s early departure would ease the way for a coalition with the opposition that could enact a bill enabling the government to issue more debt to fund this year’s $1 trillion budget and pass an extra budget to pay for rebuilding the region devastated by a March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

But it is far from clear whether a temporary and likely unwieldy grouping could tackle longer term problems such as Japan’s massive public debt, already twice the $5 trillion economy.

"He (Kan) has clearly said he will resign … so it is now up to the prime minister to decide (the timing)," DPJ Secretary-General Katsuya Okada said.

"If that is very different from what most people think, I intend, as secretary general, to tell him to quit."

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Can Naoto Kan Survive?

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.

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