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Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2010

Kan urged to focus on nation's finances

Interviewees say sales tax, foreign policy also important


By NATSUKO FUKUE and MIZUHO AOKI
Staff writers

After Prime Minister Naoto Kan was re-elected president of the Democratic Party of Japan on Tuesday, many people interviewed on the streets of Tokyo expressed support for him and said he should get to work right away on revitalizing the economy.

News photo
New era begins: A stern-faced Prime Minister Naoto Kan bows to party members after being re-elected president of the Democratic Party of Japan in Tokyo on Tuesday. Below: Kan and rival Ichiro Ozawa bow to each other afterward. KYODO PHOTO, SATOKO KAWASAKI PHOTO
News photo

Kan received 721 points while rival Ichiro Ozawa got 491 in the DPJ's complicated voting system.

"I'm expecting a lot from Kan," said a 29-year-old company employee who only provided her given name, Masako. She said she supports him because his policies are realistic.

"I agree with him for revising the (DPJ's) manifesto. It's important to change it so it will match the current situation," she said, adding Japan needs a leader who can be flexible amid societal and economic flux.

Sachiko Tanaka, 65, of Tokyo, said Kan should remain in power as long as it takes to achieve his policies.

She said she thinks the consumption tax increase Kan has suggested is unavoidable considering the nation's financial condition.

"Serving as prime minister for the past few months and seeing the reality, I guess Kan knows a consumption tax increase is inevitable," Tanaka said. "Ozawa said he will cut wasteful government spending before discussing the tax hike, but I think that's unrealistic."

Retiree Yoshitaka Suzuki, 60, said he usually doesn't vote for the DPJ, but he has high expectations for Kan.

Ozawa should not have run in the election in the first place, he said.

"I feel the DPJ is acting like the Liberal Democratic Party, which keeps having factional disputes," Suzuki said. "Ozawa is just accelerating divisions among DPJ politicians."

Suzuki said his main concern is whether Kan can gain trust from overseas nations.

"I think (the prime minister) should stay for a decent amount of time," he said, noting the criticism Japan has received from other countries for changing leaders too frequently.

Chronology of major DPJ events

Kyodo News

April 1998 — The Democratic Party of Japan is formed with Naoto Kan as its leader.

September 2003 — The DPJ absorbs the Liberal Party led by Ichiro Ozawa.

April 2006 — Ozawa is elected DPJ president.

May 2009 — Ozawa resigns as the DPJ's leader over a political money scandal. Yukio Hatoyama succeeds him.

August 2009 — The DPJ scores a landslide victory in the Lower House election, ending the Liberal Democratic Party's almost uninterrupted rule since 1955.

September 2009 — Hatoyama becomes prime minister as the DPJ launches a coalition government with two other parties. Ozawa takes up the post of DPJ secretary general.

May 28, 2010 — The DPJ-led government and the United States announce an agreement to relocate the Futenma military base within Okinawa Prefecture.

May 30 — The Social Democratic Party leaves the ruling coalition in protest over the base relocation plan.

June 2 — Hatoyama announces his resignation as prime minister and Ozawa steps down as DPJ secretary general amid falling public support due to the Futenma dispute and money scandals.

June 4 — Kan becomes DPJ president.

June 8 — Kan becomes prime minister and forms a Cabinet.

July 11 — The ruling coalition loses its majority in the Upper House.

Sept. 1 — Kan and Ozawa file their candidacies for DPJ president.

Sept. 14 — Kan is re-elected DPJ president.

Asked what should be Kan's priority, many expressed hope that he will work hard to improve the economy.

"I hope the next prime minister will change the economic climate. If the economy will not improve, companies would not be able to hire new people," said Tanaka, expressing concern over the current employment situation.

What Japan needs is someone who can energize the country, she added.

Toshiyuki Shimizu agreed. The 34-year-old company executive from Saitama Prefecture said he expects Kan to take a firm hand in guiding economic policy.

In addition to economic issues, Tomoyuki Uchida, a 69-year-old company employee, said Kan should place emphasis on foreign policy.

"Kan has to deal not only with domestic problems but also international issues, such as (the territorial dispute over) the Senkaku islands," Uchida said.But some people also had high expectations for Ozawa, saying he would be more capable in carrying out policies.

"It's not that I support a specific Ozawa policy. It's because I like Ozawa's aggressiveness," said company executive Shimizu.

Uchida said Japan needs a prime minister who can show strong leadership and Ozawa is better suited for the DPJ's top post.


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