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Saturday, Feb. 19, 2011
Rebellion within the DPJ
Sixteen Democratic Party of Japan members of the Lower House on Thursday threatened to leave the DPJ's parliamentary group in the chamber. The lawmakers, supporters of former party chief Ichiro Ozawa, submitted a written statement of their intent to the DPJ, but they say that they won't leave the party itself. Still, their move could devastate the ruling party, which lacks the two-thirds Lower House majority needed to override votes by the opposition-controlled Upper House.
A factor that apparently led to their rebellion is the DPJ leadership's move to suspend the party membership of Mr. Ozawa over a funds reporting scandal. More important, though, they are protesting against Prime Minister Naoto Kan's lack of enthusiasm in making good on the DPJ's manifesto for the 2009 Lower House election, which brought the party to power.
Given the difficult financial conditions, it is clear that the party cannot implement all the election pledges. Some of the pledges are not well thought out. But Mr. Kan clearly has failed to show a strong will in translating into action the DPJ's slogan "People's lives come first." In fact, he dropped the slogan from the party manifesto for the July Upper House election.
Mr. Kan caused his party to be defeated in the Upper House election by suddenly proposing a hike in the consumption tax. His remarks showed that he had made no careful preparations on the issue. Tax increases may be unavoidable in the future. But he is paying the price for his lack of seriousness to move the DPJ closer to implementing the 2009 party manifesto, even in a minuscule step under constraints, and for his careless handling of the consumption tax issue.
Technically the 16 DPJ members cannot leave the DPJ parliamentary group unless they get approval from DPJ Secretary General Katsuya Okada, who heads the group. But if they rebel against the party in voting, it will without fail kill budget implementation bills, causing turmoil in Japan's politics and possibly damaging the economy. The rebels must give thought to protecting overall public interests. Mr. Kan must show decisive leadership to enable his party to overcome its internal rift.