Japanese prime minister Naoto Kan defeated an opposition-sponsored no-confidence vote in parliament on Thursday by a vote of 293 to 152, promising before the vote to "pass on my responsibility to younger generations" once Japan had recovered from its March 11 earthquake and tsunami and ensuing nuclear crisis--a disaster that, at a potential cost of $309 billion, appears to be the costliest in history, according to the AP. The vote came a day after the International Atomic Energy Agency reported that Japan underestimated the danger posed by tsunamis to nuclear plants, and amidst criticism over the government's leadership, transparency, construction of temporary housing, and compensation for victims during the crisis.
The analysts parsing the news today are at odds about where today's vote leaves Kan, who's only been in office for a year, and Japanese politics. Linda Sieg at Reuters says that while Kan staved off a political vacuum in the country during a national emergency, Japan's "dysfunctional political system" will be plagued by "a lame duck leader, a combative opposition that can block legislation, and a ruling party divided by private feuds and differences over how best to solve the country's long-term ills." Jacob M. Schlesinger at The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, says Kan emerged from the vote stronger by averting an insurrection within his own Democratic Party of Japan. Yes, he agreed to step down, Schlesinger concedes, but "there's no fixed expiration date ... And what if Mr. Kan digs in and refuses to go? What will his enemies do? Introduce a no-confidence motion?"