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Saturday, July 7, 2007
Tanaka won't disband party, despite defections
By MASAMI ITO
New Party Nippon leader and ex-Nagano Gov. Yasuo Tanaka announced Friday his party would carry on even though its only two lawmakers said they are going to leave and become independents.
House of Representatives member Makoto Taki and House of Councilors member Hiroyuki Arai demanded the party be dissolved Thursday after Tanaka announced the party's position on the war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution in its platform without consulting them.
But Tanaka refused to disband the party.
"New Party Nippon will continue as a political party, facing the upcoming Upper House election" as planned, Tanaka told reporters. "We must continue our activities as a political party not only for those who voted for us in the last election, but for those who are supporting our two candidates in the Upper House election."
Tanaka and journalist Yoshifu Arita were set to run in the July 29 Upper House poll under the proportional representation system from New Party Nippon.
By law, a political party must either have five or more Diet members or more than 2 percent of all valid votes in the most recent election. In New Party Nippon's case, the minor opposition party can remain a political party because it collected more than 2 percent of the votes. Tanaka said the party received 1.64 million votes, which was about the same as the Social Democratic Party.
The two lawmakers were among the so-called postal reform rebels who in 2005 voted against then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's bill for privatizing the national postal service. As a result, they were kicked out of the Liberal Democratic Party.
The new party was hastily established in August 2005, a month before the Lower House election.
Although both Taki and Arai said they would go independent, leaving the party will give them the chance to rejoin the LDP like some of the other reform rebels have.
When asked if he intended to join hands with other parties, such as the LDP or the Democratic Party of Japan, after the election, Tanaka only said New Party Nippon is unaffiliated.
Tanaka's position on Article 9 is that clauses 1 and 2 should be maintained but that a third should be added to create a new international rescue team. This position, he said, is completely different from "fundamentalists like the SDP and the Japanese Communist Party."
The party's concept is "to put Article 9 into practice and spread it through the world — and adding the third clause would do that," Tanaka said.
The international rescue team would "help areas facing convulsions of nature, like earthquakes or tsunami, or civil war and starvation, by bringing in rescuers who can offer medical assistance, rebuild homes, and in the longer term, include (help for) education and welfare, too," he said.
Tanaka, an award-winning novelist, was first elected governor of Nagano in October 2000. After serving two terms, he lost the gubernatorial election in 2006.