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Japan’s PM faces threat to power

JAPAN: Japan’s Prime Minister Naoto Kan was hailed as the humble “son of a salaryman” ready to shake up politics when he took office in June, but quickly lost public favour by mentioning tax hikes.

Japan’s fifth Premier in four years, Kan put fiscal discipline at the core of his agenda, aiming to fix the country’s finances and slash the record public debt, which is almost twice the size of the economy.

But in just three months as leader Kan has squandered the goodwill that greeted his ascendancy by raising the issue of doubling consumption tax, which cost his party its majority in July’s upper house election. Criticism that his administration has been slow to react to Japan’s weakening economy and the impact of a strong yen has drawn unfavourable comparison with his dithering predecessor, Yukio Hatoyama.

Kan, a 63-year-old one-time leftist activist, had vowed to restore the “vigour” of Asia’s biggest economy after two decades of sluggish growth, pledging to stay in power long enough to make it happen.

“Even a great man can’t make things happen in only a year,” he said in July. “I want to maintain power for at least five years.” But he now faces the threat of being undermined by controversial power broker Ichiro Ozawa, who is running against him in the ruling party’s leadership election Tuesday.

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