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Japanese minister resigns over postal reform bill

A Japanese minister stepped down today to protest the government's failure to enact legislation on postal reform, three days after Prime Minister Naoto Kan's cabinet took office.

world Updated: Jun 11, 2010 17:11 IST

A Japanese minister stepped down on Friday to protest the government's failure to enact legislation on postal reform, three days after Prime Minister Naoto Kan's cabinet took office.

Shizuka Kamei, the leader of the People's New Party (PNP), resigned as postal reform and financial services minister, accusing the PNP's senior coalition partner, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), of failing to pass a bill to scale down privatisation of the post office.

"A promise between the two parties was broken, so I decided to leave the cabinet to take responsibility," Kamei said.

Japan's post office has held a significant part of Japanese household savings, which was invested in low-interest-yielding government bonds or was used to finance public works projects.

Privatisation of the post office, albeit with a controlling stake by the government, in 2005 was envisaged by then-Liberal Democratic Party premier Junichiro Koizumi as helping stimulate Japan's flagging economy by bringing those savings into the private sector.

Detractors said the reform would lead to closures of post offices, especially in rural areas.

The PNP demanded the current parliamentary session be extended to pass the bill, but the DPJ decided Thursday not to enact it during this session of the Diet.

The DPJ wants to end the session next week as scheduled and head into an upper house election in July while enjoying high approval ratings that followed Kan's takeover.

More than 60 percent of the electorate support his cabinet, major opinion polls showed this week.

The latest Kyodo News poll showed the support rate for the DPJ soared 15.6 percentage points to 36.1 percent from a previous survey conducted just before then-premier Yukio Hatoyama announced his resignation last week.

Given those poll ratings, Kamei's resignation was unlikely to damage Kan much, analysts said.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku said Kamei's decision was "very regrettable."

Kan picked Shozaburo Jimi, the PNP's secretary general, to succeed Kamei.

The DPJ and the PNP issued a written agreement, saying they would retain their alliance and place priority on deliberating the postal reform bill at an extraordinary session of the Diet.

DPJ secretary general Yukio Edano told reporters the two parties would try to pass the bill after the upper house election.

The DPJ, which does not hold a majority in the upper house, wanted the PNP to stay in the coalition, especially after the Social Democratic Party (SDP) bolted late last month over its disagreement with the DPJ to keep a US military base on the Japanese island of Okinawa.

The SDP's departure prompted unpopular Hatoyama to step down.

First Published: Jun 11, 2010 16:24 IST