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Saturday, Jan. 17, 2009

Watanabe, Eda to form political group but not new party

Staff writer

Former administrative reform minister Yoshimi Watanabe, who quit the ruling Liberal Democratic Party on Tuesday, announced Friday he will form a political campaign group with lawmaker Kenji Eda and two analysts.

Watanabe, 56, told reporters the group was not a new party but a "people's movement" aimed at changing a political situation that he said is controlled by the bureaucrats in Kasumigaseki, the nerve center of the government.

"It goes without saying that Kasumigaseki is controlling politics, controlling the public through its 'amakudari' (the appointment of retired civil servants to high positions in quasi-governmental corporations) network and by controlling local governments as well," Watanabe said. "This movement is aimed at breaking free from that system."

The two other founding members are political analyst Taro Yayama, and Katsuhiko Eguchi, president of the PHP research institute who also heads a government panel on reorganizing the prefectural system.

Eda, 52, is a former bureaucrat who served as secretary to the late Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto.

Since Watanabe's defection from the LDP, the focus of attention has been whether any ruling party lawmakers would follow him and tip the balance of power in the Lower House.

If 16 more Lower House members of the ruling bloc defect to the opposition, the coalition will lose the two-thirds majority in the chamber that is necessary to override any decisions taken in the opposition-controlled Upper House.

Thus, politicians pondered Watanabe's next move, including whether he would approach the Democratic Party of Japan or form a new party.

In the end, he did neither. Both he and Eda repeatedly emphasized that the new group was not a party but said they may need to resort to concrete political action to bring about policy proposals the group intends to draft.

The group said it will try to change the current political situation through the "participation of people sharing the same resolve."

"Separate from this framework, we plan to continue searching and considering what kind of choices we have as lawmakers, and to take action based on that," Eda said.

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The Japan Times

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