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Sunday, Nov. 6, 2011
Mr. Noda's damage control exercise
After three months in power, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has to wade through resistance not only from the opposition forces but also from within his own Democratic Party of Japan. Now that the Diet has passed the third supplementary budget for fiscal 2011 and related bills for reconstruction from the March 11 disasters in Tohoku, the strategy of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito is to inflict as much damage as possible on the Noda administration to force him to dissolve the Lower House for a snap election.
Mr. Noda's next main goal is to raise the consumption tax rate to eventually 10 percent from the current 5 percent to cover social welfare costs. But there is persistent resistance to his plan even among some DPJ lawmakers, including former DPJ leader Ichiro Ozawa and those close to him. Mr. Ozawa threatened by saying that if the government moves to raise the consumption tax, the DPJ will be divided into two. Such a tax raise in the midst of economic stagnation will further deteriorate the Japanese economy. Mr. Noda must give a convincing explanation.
The LDP called for raising the tax to 10 percent in the July 2010 Upper House election, a policy almost similar to the Noda administration's. Mr. Noda calls on the LDP and Komeito to first hold consultations with the DPJ over the consumption tax raise plan so that their opinions will be reflected in the government's tax raise policy.
But LDP leader Sadakazu Tanigaki attacked Mr. Noda by pointing out that the DPJ's manifesto for the August 2009 Lower House election said that the party will not raise the tax for four years. He said that Mr. Noda should first dissolve the Lower House to seek the judgment of people through a snap election.
Unexpected help came to the LDP and Komeito. It was a remark by the Okinawa Defense Bureau chief. He was sacked for saying, "Do you say, 'I am going to rape you,' before you rape a woman?" in connection with the timing of a procedure necessary for the plan to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma within Okinawa Prefecture. The two parties plan to submit a censure motion against Defense Minister Yasuo Ichikawa to the opposition-controlled Upper House on Dec. 9. If it is passed and the Diet session is extended, the opposition will boycott Upper House sessions attended by Mr. Ichikawa and Mr. Noda will need to conduct damage control.