Naoto Kan Accidentally Calls Opposition Leader “Prime Minister”

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    Prime Minister Kan has delivered a lol-worthy gaffe during a political debate in the Diet today (40 seconds into this video clip):

    As he launched into a rebuttal of a scathing review by Mr. Tanigaki of the prime minister’s administration, Mr. Kan said – on live nationwide TV — “First of all, we heard from Prime Minister Tanigaki…oh excuse me…” Mr. Kan had fumbled Mr. Tanigaki’s party president title with his own: the word for Prime Minster in Japanese, souri, is apparently too similar to sousai, which means president, on such hectic occasions.

    Cue riotous bellows from the gallery of LDP lawmakers, likely to put a motion of no confidence in Mr. Kan’s government before parliament for a vote Thursday.

    “Prime Minister Tanigaki” is now trending on Twitter in Japan. Another trending term is “submitting letter of resignation,” referring to the pro-Ozawa cabinet ministers who have resigned ahead of tomorrow’s no-confidence motion.

    Here’s a news graphic that shows the expected vote (as of yesterday):

    If the motion clears the Lower House, the Cabinet must either resign or dissolve the chamber and hold a general election.

    Most of the opposition parties were set to support the motion, but passage will require around 80 more lawmakers to jump on board.

    It was believed that around 40 Ozawa followers were set to support it, including 16 DPJ lawmakers such as Koichiro Watanabe, who launched a revolt against Kan back in February.

    But even if the motion is shot down, Kan’s political leadership will be in tatters if dozens of DPJ members abstain from voting or support the motion. And his political base would be shaky at best with his party split in half.

    According to the latest estimate from the Asahi Shimbun, between 40 and 60 DPJ lawmakers will either abstain from voting or vote in favor of the no-confidence motion. Kan may survive, but it could be a close-run thing.

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