--The Asahi Shimbun, May 21
EDITORIAL: Nishioka's call for Kan's resignation can only lead to political turmoil
Politicians should have the freedom to call for the resignation of a government official or a Diet member they disapprove of.
But that doesn't mean that the chief of one of the three branches of government should be allowed to urge the head of another branch to step down.
Such an action by a person in one of the highest offices in the nation is outrageous and outlandish.
Upper House President Takeo Nishioka sent a letter to Prime Minister Naoto Kan urging him to "resign immediately."
Nishioka also called for Kan's departure at a news conference and in an article he wrote for The Yomiuri Shimbun.
Nishioka, who was a member of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan until he assumed his current post, cited Kan's inept responses to the Great East Japan Earthquake and the nuclear disaster triggered by the earthquake as the reason for his high-profile political attack against the embattled premier.
Nishioka went so far as to argue that if Kan refuses to step down, the opposition parties should submit a no-confidence motion against his Cabinet to the Lower House before this year's Group of Eight summit, slated to be held in France on May 26.
Public distrust of the Kan administration has been growing by the day due to its poor and delayed responses to the March 11 earthquake and tsunami and its failure to disclose adequate information about the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
It is hardly surprising that criticism of Kan's leadership has also grown in the Diet.
However, for the representative of the legislature to argue for the resignation of the prime minister, who heads the administrative branch--without any decision by the legislature--is an ethical transgression that cannot be overlooked.
By convention, the Upper House president, like the Lower House speaker, leaves his or her political party in order to perform their duty with fairness and political neutrality.
Nishioka's remarks clearly exceed the boundaries of the role he is expected to perform.
In addition, Nishioka is the president of the Upper House.
In the designation of the prime minister, the Lower House's decision takes precedence over the Upper House's.
Only the Lower House has the power to pass a no-confidence motion against the Cabinet.
In other words, the Upper House is expected to act as the seat of common sense that distances itself from any power struggles.
By making a public call for the prime minister's resignation, Nishioka is making the house look like an arena of political conflict.
This is no time for discussing whether Kan should remain in office, in the first place.
When the nation is going through such a crisis, lawmakers obviously should join hands in tackling challenges instead of trying to undermine the efforts of their colleagues.
We are fed up with the nation's political situation where common sense doesn't prevail.
Quoting the phrase "Don't change horses in a midstream," Nishioka said Kan doesn't even have the determination to cross the rushing stream. He asserted that the risk of allowing the current situation to continue is bigger than the risk of changing horses.
The anti-Kan group within the DPJ is echoing Nishioka's criticism of the prime minister.
If the opposition parties submit a no-confidence motion against the Cabinet, the DPJ group led by former party chief Ichiro Ozawa and its political allies within the party may vote for the motion, ensuring its passage.
But there are wide differences over key policy issues between the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party, which is calling for the abolition of the new childcare allowance program the DPJ-led government has introduced, and the Ozawa group, which has vowed to keep the program alive.
There will be no prospect for a workable ruling coalition between the LDP and the Ozawa group if they join forces to force Kan to resign. There can only be deeper political confusion.
We have no choice now but to give spurs to our horses in order to cross the rushing stream in front of us.
Debate on whether Kan should leave office should wait until the crisis is over.