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Tuesday, July 10, 2007
No tieups for Kokumin Shinto: Watanuki
Small party's chief defends postal reform opposition, backing Fujimori
By MASAMI ITO
Although the leader of Kokumin Shinto (People's New Party) has ruled out the possibility of forming an alliance with another party, that doesn't mean he isn't interested in cooperating on policy where possible.
"If another party agrees to adopt our proposal, like our political campaign to reconsider the postal privatization bill, (Kokumin Shinto) would partially (cooperate) with that party," Tamisuke Watanuki said. "But that does not mean that (our party) would do everything together."
Watanuki is one of the "postal reform rebels" who in August 2005 voted against then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's postal privatization bill and left the Liberal Democratic Party after being told the party would not back them in the Lower House election the following month.
Watanuki, along with former LDP policy chief Shizuka Kamei and some of their fellow postal rebels, founded Kokumin Shinto in 2005.
Eleven others, including former postal minister Seiko Noda, who remained independent, were officially readmitted to the LDP last December, to the derision of opposition parties and the public.
Two other ex-LDP rebels — members of minor opposition party New Party Nippon headed by former Nagano Gov. Yasuo Tanaka — expressed their intention to leave their small party last week and become independent, opening up the possibility they may return to the LDP as well.
In a recent interview with The Japan Times, Watanuki said he will not rejoin the LDP because, "I am thinking about what is best for the public, focusing on policies instead of begging my way back into the party."
Kokumin Shinto has six Diet members, excluding its two Upper House lawmakers who are up for re-election. Watanuki refused to specify how many seats he hopes to win, but the party has announced it is backing nine candidates in the electoral districts and 14 in the proportional representation segment.
Though small, it recently attracted attention as a possible LDP partner should Abe's LDP-New Komeito partnership fail to maintain its Upper House majority in the July 29 election.
Kokumin Shinto also surprised the public recently by announcing it will back disgraced former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori as a candidate in the Upper House election.
Fujimori is "the last samurai, who at one point was considered a hero and won approval for various accomplishments," Watanuki said.
But Fujimori, who was president of Peru from 1990 to 2000, faces trial on several counts, ranging from corruption to human rights violations, including sanctioning death squads. Currently under house arrest in Chile, he awaits a Chilean Supreme Court ruling on whether he should be extradited to Peru.
Watanuki said they are still not sure if Fujimori, who reportedly would like to run, will be allowed to come to Japan to campaign.
"People say (having Fujimori run) would have a negative (impact), but I think there is (a positive aspect), also," Watanuki said. "After all, he is well-known to the point that (almost) everyone knows who he is. (We) have been saying that having someone (as famous as Fujimori) run for our party would be good PR for Kokumin Shinto."
Watanuki is deeply critical of the way Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has run his Cabinet and the Diet, labeling it "fashion politics" and denouncing the government as soulless. Watanuki also likened Abe's government to a "dictatorship" for continuously ramming bills of little substance through the Diet without proper deliberation.
"Throughout my long political career, I have never seen anything like this. The prime minister (and his office) is treating the Diet like his follower. (Abe's government) is like a car without brakes, and such horrifying politics should not be" tolerated.
A veteran lawmaker elected to the House of Representatives 13 times, Watanuki was secretary general of the LDP in 1991 and acceded to the position of speaker of the House of Representatives in 2000 before breaking ranks with the party in 2005.