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Sunday, April 11, 2010
LDP defectors launch new political party
Hiranuma, Yosano to act as joint leaders
By ALEX MARTIN
Former trade minister Takeo Hiranuma and four other ex-Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers launched a new party Saturday in a bid to create a viable alternative to the dominant players ahead of this summer's Upper House election.
The party, Tachiagare Nippon, is founded on a pledge to chart a clear path for economic growth and fiscal rehabilitation, including drastic tax reform entailing a consumption tax hike.
Although the party's name literally translates as "Stand Up, Japan," party members at a news conference in Tokyo revealed its English name will be "The Sunrise Party of Japan."
Though Hiranuma, 70, is the party's nominal head, former Finance Minister Kaoru Yosano, 71, a veteran LDP lawmaker who together with Hiranuma played a central role in the party's formation, will act as coleader.
"I've seen quite a lot over the past 30 years as a lawmaker, but looking at the way politics are done now, I can't help but question the future of Japan," Hiranuma said. "That's why by launching this new party, I've decided to risk my political career for our precious nation."
Yosano slammed the DPJ for lacking any political philosophy or ideology, and lamented that the LDP did not have the energy to be a viable opposition force. "We will fight on as an anti-DPJ, non-LDP force," he said.
The party advocates a "medium welfare, medium cost-bearing" concept aimed at creating sustainable social security, and plans to promote a vision of a nation where both the young and elderly can live peacefully.
The new party will also advocate a new Constitution and to maintain a nationwide postal service.
The other members are former LDP Deputy Secretary General Hiroyuki Sonoda, 68, Upper House member Yoshio Nakagawa, 72, and former transport minister Takao Fujii, 67.
Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, a close friend of Hiranuma who came up with the party's name, also attended the conference that took place in the New Otani Hotel in Tokyo.
He slammed the media for portraying the party as a "gathering of old men."
"We have a sense of urgency that you young folks lack," Ishihara said. "If you've got the time to ridicule us, help us make a change."
Yosano, Sonoda, Nakagawa and Fujii have all tendered their resignation to the LDP, the main opposition party, in recent weeks.
Hiranuma, an independent lawmaker, left the LDP in 2005 over his opposition to then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's postal privatization reforms.
Yosano, who served as the second finance minister in the Cabinet of former Prime Minister Taro Aso, is an economics expert who has fought for fiscal austerity and called for a consumption tax hike.
The recent string of defections has dealt a heavy blow to the LDP ahead of the Upper House poll expected in July, with the party struggling to reassert itself after its historic defeat in last summer's Lower House election.
Meanwhile, the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, which is also struggling with low approval ratings, appeared to welcome the formation of the new party for its potential to further divide the opposition and siphon votes from the LDP.
"I believe that as Diet members and politicians, each of them are acting from their love of the country. They should act based on their convictions," Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama told reporters Thursday.
With the launch of Tachiagare Nippon and with former Yokohama Mayor Hiroshi Nakada and other former and current local government heads planning to launch a new party, the Upper House election will feature many new faces, including Yoshimi Watanabe's Your Party, which is gathering support from nonaffiliated voters discontent with both the DPJ and LDP.