Seiji sekinin -- the taking of political responsibility -- is going to weigh heavily on the shoulders of Prime Minister Kan Naoto over the next few days. The appointment of Matsumoto Ryu as Minister of Reconstruction, made as a part of a series of moves two weekends ago that weakened the Kan Cabinet, and that appointment's spectacular implosion, leave the PM with surrounded by disappointed former allies, now ready to move on to a new leader.
Created as a sop to the Liberal Democratic Party in order to bring them on board with other pending legislation, the position of Minister of Reconstruction is akin to a proconsul of the Northeast sector of the country, a superminister with the power to apply vast amounts of resources and energy to the task of rebuilding the shattered Tohoku region and elsewhere (the extent of damage is much, much greater than even the dramatic images on television have shown. In prefectures far from the epicenter and from the coast like Tochigi, Gunma and Niigata, homes and businesses have been seriously damaged.). Perhaps unavoidably, being given the powers of a proconsul, Matsumoto began to act like one -- with contempt for the political process and the pride of the little people under him
Kan's appointment a man who could not shift gears from being minister of a ministry renowned for its lack of clout (Environment) to what is arguably the third most powerful position in the government (after prime minister and chief cabinet secretary, pipping in political importance the minister of finance) in a mini-reshuffle that he carried out almost without consultation with other members of his government and the membership of his party is almost certainly going to have the words "seiji sekinin, seiji sekinin" echoing through the halls of the Diet. Kan will certainly get an earful of it tomorrow, when the Diet resumes regular business with a meeting of the House of Representatives Budget Committee.
Until now, Kan has been able to sidestep taking responsibility the staggering loss of control of the House of Councillors due to a disastrous showing in last year's H of C election, the resignation of two of his ministers and a washout of the Democratic Party in local elections this past April. All these losses he could attribute to someone else's bungling. Responsibility for the Matsumoto appointment, however, is his alone. With vital allies like Finance Minister Noda Katsuhiko, Diet Affairs Chairman Azumi Jun and others now openly lamenting Kan's actions, the days ahead seem dark for the prime minister.
Just who will succeed Kan before the this month is out (I would put my current money on Noda rather than Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano Yukio) is all of a sudden a quite reasonable subject for rumination.