TOKYO: Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan faces a rebellion in his party, media said on Wednesday, that while not enough to unseat him in a no-confidence motion will weaken his struggle to cope with the world's worst nuclear crisis in 25 years.
Analysts have said Kan should survive the vote in parliament, expected to be on Thursday, but that he would still face big hurdles pushing policies through a divided parliament, including an extra budget to pay for rebuilding after the deadly March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
Adoption of the motion would force Kan either to resign with his cabinet or call a snap lower house poll. While he has refused to rule out the latter, analysts say holding an election would be tough while part of the country is still trying to recover from the nuclear and natural disasters.
Rivals in Kan's Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), many of whom back scandal-tainted powerbroker Ichiro Ozawa want the premier to quit before the vote.
That could clear the way for a new leader who could form a coalition with the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party to break a parliamentary logjam.
The Asahi newspaper said more than 50 backers of Ozawa, who has been charged over a funding scandal, planned to vote in favour of the no-confidence motion. That would fall short of the more than 70 DPJ votes needed to pass the motion in the 480 member lower house, where the Democrats have 305 seats.
Kan, who took office last year as Japan's fifth premier in as many years, is struggling to control the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co's Fukushima atomic plant, pay for rebuilding the northeast region devastated by the tsunami, and craft tax reforms to pay for rising social security costs.
“It doesn't look as if the prime minister will resign,” the Yomiuri newspaper quoted Ozawa as telling a close source. “If we go on this way, Japan will be done for. I will act together with my comrades.”
Kan was set to meet younger lawmakers from both the LDP and DPJ before facing off with his main opposition rival in a parliamentary debate on Wednesday.
He appeared to hold out an olive branch to his critics by suggesting a parliament session set to end on June 22 could be extended. Kan made the remark in a session of the upper house, adding he would positively consider submitting a second extra budget for the current fiscal year.
The opposition and DPJ critics want the session extended in order to deal with a second extra budget to fund the next phase of rebuilding from the tsunami in what will be Japan's biggest reconstruction project since the early post-World War Two era.
The government also needs to get parliament to enact a bill enabling the issuance of fresh bonds to finance 44 per cent of the dollar 1 trillion budget for the fiscal year already begun in April.
Kan's cabinet is also trying to finalise this month proposals for social security and tax reforms - including a likely doubling of the 5 per cent sales tax in stages by 2015.