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Friday, July 25, 2003

DPJ, Liberal Party exec panels approve fall merger proposal


Staff writer

The executive councils of the Democratic Party of Japan and Liberal Party approved on Thursday a proposal to merge the two parties by the end of September.

News photo
Naoto Kan (center), leader of the Democratic Party of Japan, and DPJ Secretary General Katsuya Okaya (right) emerge from a party general assembly session.

The consolidation was agreed to Wednesday in a meeting between DPJ President Naoto Kan and Liberal Party head Ichiro Ozawa.

According to a written accord exchanged by the two leaders, the Liberal Party will disband and the DPJ will be the surviving party.

Observers speculated that some Liberal Party members would rebel against Ozawa's top-down decision, but no one expressed opposition during Thursday's executive meeting and a following general meeting attended by all Liberal Party lawmakers, according to participants.

The DPJ will hold another meeting of its Diet members at the end of the month in a bid to reach a consensus on the union.

Many DPJ executives have already expressed their support for the consolidation plan, because it entails a number of key concessions from the Liberal Party on merger conditions.

The DPJ's current policy platform, executive lineup, party code and rules in selecting official candidates will all remain intact after the merger, according to the accord.

When selecting one from several candidates in a single-seat constituency, the DPJ will place priority on a candidate who had a better vote-winning ratio in a previous election.

This is expected to leave many Liberal Party members at a disadvantage vis-a-vis their DPJ counterparts.

Even Shingo Nishimura, a Lower House member well-known for his advocacy of radical defense policies that conflict with the DPJ's defense policies, said he will follow the decision of the party leader.

Nishimura advocates building a nuclear arsenal, while the DPJ has many former Socialists who advocate pacifism.

"There will be some tough problems, depending on electoral constituencies and situations surrounding each member," Nishimura said. "But we all approved the (merger) policy of the president."



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