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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Masuzoe launches new party

Staff writer

Former health minister Yoichi Masuzoe and five other Diet lawmakers formed a new political party Friday, following three other new minor parties that hope to give voters an alternative choice in the Upper House election his summer.

At a news conference to announce the formation of Shinto Kaikaku, Masuzoe slammed the administration of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama for damaging the public's trust in politics with a string of money scandals, dragging out a decision on relocating a U.S. Marine base in Okinawa, and failing to improve the sluggish economy.

"There is a sense of stagnation poisoning the public," said Masuzoe, who promised to tackle deflation, make Japan internationally competitive and eliminate money scandals.

"To change such a situation, we decided to launch a new party in order to build an open political system," said Masuzoe, who left the Liberal Democratic Party on Wednesday.

The new party is named Shinto Kaikaku, which can be translated as New Reform Party.

Earlier this month, veteran lawmakers Takeo Hiranuma and Kaoru Yosano assembled a group of other LDP defectors to form Tachiagare Nippon (Sunrise Party of Japan), while Hiroshi Yamada, the mayor of Suginami Ward, Tokyo, formed a party with fellow heads of local governments.

Your Party, formed in August and led by Lower House member Yoshimi Watanabe, is another new party that will try to pick up some seats in the Upper House election.

Masuzoe also criticized the LDP for failing to listen to his calls to restructure the once-ruling party, blaming its leadership for the party's low standing in opinion polls.

The LDP had been ratcheting up the pressure on Masuzoe in recent weeks over his frequent criticism of the party's executives.

"I've been advising (the leadership) on what policies will appeal to the public, but they wouldn't listen," he said.

Tetsuro Yano, a 63-year-old member of the Upper House who tendered his resignation from the LDP alongside Masuzoe, will act as the new party's deputy leader, while Hiroyuki Arai of the minor opposition force Kaikaku Club will serve as secretary general.

Other members of Masuzoe's party include Upper House lawmaker Masakatsu Koike, another LDP defector, and two lawmakers from Kaikaku Club: Hideo Watanabe and Toshio Yamauchi.

To be immediately eligible to receive government subsidies for political parties, Masuzoe transferred his name to Kaikaku Club before changing its name to Shinto Kaikaku.

Arai said the party has already finished all procedures necessary for the transaction, adding that Friday was the "deadline" for Kaikaku Club to change its name and receive the subsidies before the Upper House campaign.

"We intend to use the subsidies to promote politics for the people," he said.

The departure of Masuzoe, a popular choice with the public for prime minister, has dealt a further blow to the LDP, which has now seen 13 recent defections by Diet members.

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The Japan Times

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