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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Fujimura rules out grand coalition notion


Staff writer

Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura flatly denied Monday that the ruling Democratic Party of Japan would consider forming a grand coalition with the Liberal Democratic Party to pass the contentious bill for doubling the consumption tax to 10 percent by 2015.

At a morning news conference, Fujimura stressed that seeking cooperation from the LDP, the main opposition force, over the tax hike and forming a grand coalition were two completely different things.

"I think it is important to pass various (bills) after holding thorough discussions and gaining a consensus between the ruling and opposition camps, but forming a grand coalition is completely different," he said.

"A grand coalition is on a completely different level because it is about a political realignment," he added. "I don't think it is possible."

Over the weekend, media reports indicated Deputy Prime Minister Katsuya Okada tried and failed earlier this month to ask the LDP to join hands with his DPJ, triggering resentment and criticism from members of both parties.

Talk of a grand coalition has surfaced and disappeared repeatedly as the divided Diet, in which the opposition camp controls the Upper House, impedes efforts by the DPJ-Kokumin Shinto (People's New Party) ruling bloc to pass legislation. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda also doesn't even have backing in his own DPJ, which continues to be divided between supporters and foes of disgraced kingpin Ichiro Ozawa, who is against the tax hike.

Although Okada himself has declined comment on the media reports, it is speculated he tried to solicit the LDP's help amid the political divide.

LDP Vice President Tadamori Oshima denied that Okada asked to form a coalition and stated that Noda should first dissolve the Lower House and call an election before attempting to pass the tax hike bill.

If Noda is "asking for the LDP's help because (the DPJ) is in trouble, I am wondering what happened to his 'unwavering resolve' to raise the consumption tax," Oshima told reporters Monday morning, adding a grand coalition would not be possible.

Noda and his Cabinet hope to submit the tax hike bill to the Diet by the end of this week but they are facing opposition not only from members of the DPJ, but also from coalition partner Kokumin Shinto. And Okada's recent call for a grand coalition with the LDP has only added fuel to the fire, making it unclear just how soon the government may be able to submit the bill.

The DPJ has been holding internal meetings since last week on the tax hike bill.



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