OKYO, Nov. 22 (Xinhua) — Japan’s Justice Minister Minoru Yanagida resigned Monday for making disparaging comments regarding his job, in the latest saga for Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s government whose support rating has plunged by almost half according to recent polls.
Yanagida expressed his intention to step down to Kan at the premier’s office on Monday morning, having originally said he had no plans to resign over the gaffe despite vociferous calls from the opposition camp for him to do so.
The leading opposition Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) decision to submit a censure motion against the justice minister as well as the likelihood of the opposition-bloc abstaining from talks on the extra budget for the current fiscal year in response to Yanagida’s comments, are believed to have forced Yanagida resignation.
“I told the prime minister I am resigning to ensure the bill is passed quickly,” Yanagida, 56, said at a press conference Monday in Tokyo. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku will take on the justice portfolio, he said.
In his home constituency in Hiroshima Prefecture on Nov. 14, Yanagida told supporters at a private gathering that his job as justice minister was easy and only required him to memorize two key phrases.
“Being the justice minister is easy, as I only have to remember two phrases, either of which I can use in parliament whenever I’m stuck for an answer,” he said.
The first is, “I refrain from making comments on a specific issue,” and [the second is] “We’re dealing with the matter based on laws and evidence,” Yanagida said.
His comments sparked outrage from opposition officials who called for Yanagida’s resignation saying his comments demean parliamentary affairs.
Yanagida is the first minister to step down since Kan reshuffled his Cabinet in mid-September after winning reelection as DPJ president.
Public support for Kan’s Cabinet plummeted to 26 percent in a weekend poll from 49 percent in the previous survey in October — the lowest level since he took office, the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper reported Monday.
The disapproval rate for the Cabinet leapt to 57 percent from 34 percent, the poll revealed.
The survey also showed 71 percent of respondents thought Yanagida should resign over his verbal gaffe, while 27 percent said he did not deserve to resign.
As Kan hopes his extra budget bill will pass through the upper house, as political and public pressure rises for the prime minister to actively take steps to kick start the nation’s stammering economy, the prime minister and his ruling Democratic Party of Japan has been dealt a series of hammer blows of late.
Such problems include Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku, Kan’s top spokesman, last Thursday referring to the Japanese Self- Defense Force troops as an “instrument of violence” and “a kind of military organization.”
Further adding to political instability in Kan’s government, lawmakers close to DPJ’s Ichiro Ozawa quoted the political powerhouse as saying the House of Representatives “could be dissolved” for a snap election as the current government is facing insurmountable problems.
Ozawa is now heading up a policy group of new lawmakers in the lower house who are set to embark on a mission of upholding the DPJ’s original election pledges, made at the general election last year, some of which have since gone awry, and giving advice to the government, which may not be in Kan’s best interests.
Ozawa is a political heavyweight who holds sway over a number of DPJ lawmakers. He is widely regarded as being the DPJ’s puppet- master, and crafted the DPJ election campaign that displaced the LDP from power in the last general election.
Kan and his Cabinet have also come under fire and lost public support over the handling of territorial spats which have reemerged with Russia and China.