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Thursday, June 14, 2012
Noda may drop pension plan pledge to get LDP support for tax hike
By MASAMI ITO and NATSUKO FUKUE
Desperate to pass the consumption tax hike this Diet session, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda suggested Wednesday he may give in and accept a Liberal Democratic Party proposal on the social security system that flies in the face of the Democratic Party of Japan's key pledges.
The clock is ticking since Noda set a Friday deadline for cross-party talks with the LDP and New Komeito to reach an agreement on the details for doubling the 5 percent consumption tax by October 2015.
To go along with the hike, the two main opposition parties are demanding that the DPJ scrap its key campaign pledges, including the creation of a new pension system that would guarantee minimum monthly benefits of ¥70,000.
"We are considering everything, including the possibility" of accepting the LDP's proposal, Noda told the Upper House Budget Committee.
During the three-party negotiations in the evening, the DPJ submitted a revised plan believed to contain compromises on sticking points. But its specifics were not available.
LDP negotiators took the new proposal back to the party for further discussion, while New Komeito negotiators appeared dissatisfied.
If the three parties fail to reach an agreement by Friday, the LDP and New Komeito are threatening to call off the talks.
"The prime minister is the one who set the deadline for the 15th, and I wouldn't be surprised if (the LDP and New Komeito) come to that decision (to break off the talks)" if a consensus isn't reached, said LDP lawmaker Nobutaka Machimura, one of the key negotiators.
In the divided Diet, in which the opposition controls the Upper House, cooperation from the LDP and New Komeito is vital if the tax hike bill is to become law. And even if those two parties get on board, Noda still needs to deal with the strong opposition within his DPJ, including from kingpin Ichiro Ozawa and his more than 100 followers.
During Wednesday's Budget Committee session, Noda promised he would do his best to convince his party members.
"I am aware that there are various opinions, but if the ruling and opposition party negotiations can reach a consensus, I will do my best to unite the DPJ," Noda said.
The prospects remain bleak. During a DPJ meeting Tuesday evening, some participants strongly slammed the possibility of accepting the LDP's proposal.
"The LDP's proposal is unacceptable. If we were to agree, the DPJ would become the LDP," charged DPJ lawmaker Hiroshi Kawauchi.