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Japan internal affairs minister resigns

Japan's internal affairs and communications minister resigned on Friday, dealing a blow to the country's beleaguered Prime Minister ahead of a looming election.

world Updated: Jun 12, 2009 13:45 IST

Japan's internal affairs and communications minister resigned on Friday, dealing a blow to the country's beleaguered Prime Minister ahead of a looming election.

Kunio Hatoyama became the third Cabinet minister to step down since Taro Aso took over as prime minister in September. Hatoyama quit because of a dispute with the rest of the Cabinet over the reappointment of the head of a government-owned corporation. "As I cannot compromise over the matter, I chose to resign," Hatoyama told reporters.

Hatoyama, who had been a close ally of Aso, said the prime minister received his letter of resignation and told the departing minister that he felt "sad."

The resignation deals a fresh blow to the Prime Minister, whose public support remains sluggish ahead of upper house elections that must be held by Sept 10.

Aso's Liberal Democratic Party has governed Japan for virtually all of the past 50 years, but opinion polls have suggested the country's biggest opposition party could win in the next polls. Hatoyama, who had authority over the government-owned Japan Post, had repeatedly refused to approve the reappointment of Yoshifumi Nishikawa as head of the corporation, arguing that his management was sloppy. Other members of Aso's Cabinet, and reportedly Aso himself, wanted to keep Nishikawa.

Hatoyama had criticized the Aso government for lacking political clout, saying he had pointed out questionable transactions involving Japan Post, but that the Aso government did not listen. His resignation also highlighted party discord, with senior members blaming him for prolonging the problem and causing the public to question Aso's leadership.

"He shouldn't have made an impression that we were dragging our feet," said LDP Secretary-General Bunmei Ibuki.

National Public Safety chief Tsutomu Sato will fill Hatoyama's post.