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Wednesday, July 4, 2012
Hatoyama membership suspended; others warned
DPJ formally expels bolting tax hike foes
By MASAMI ITO
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and his Democratic Party of Japan said Tuesday that Ichiro Ozawa and 36 other Lower House lawmakers who rejected the administration's tax hike bill and submitted letters of resignation will be formally expelled from the party.
The most severe punishment, pending a few more party procedures to make it official, was handed to Ozawa and his followers, while former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who also voted against the tax bill last week but remained in the DPJ, saw his membership in the party suspended for six months.
The remaining 18 lawmakers who rejected the tax bill but stayed in the party were placed on two-month probation, while those who abstained from the voting face only a warning.
DPJ Secretary General Azuma Koshiishi said Hatoyama's punishment is heavier than what the others who stayed on got because he once headed the party and served as its first prime minister.
DPJ supreme adviser Kozo Watanabe expressed satisfaction with the penalties, telling reporters that none of the DPJ executives opposed them.
"We needed to settle this once and for all, and it is completely a matter of course" that Ozawa and his followers were expelled, said Watanabe. "I think the prime minister and secretary general came up with a creative (penalty) to make sure that it does not affect deliberations in the Upper House or cause more strife within the party."
The 12 Upper House lawmakers who also submitted their resignations along with Ozawa were not punished and their letters of resignation were approved, given that the chamber has not voted yet on the tax hike bill.
Meanwhile, Ozawa's moves to form a new party faced another setback when Lower House lawmaker Tomohiko Mizuno retracted his resignation letter and decided to remain in the DPJ. Two did likewise Monday.
The mass exit of Ozawa's minions shook Noda's leadership to the core. The prime minister sought cooperation from his Cabinet on Tuesday morning amid the uncertainty caused by Ozawa, who spent the day meeting with his loyalists in preparation of launching a new party, perhaps by next week.
"I have been putting the ministers through a lot of trouble, but, in a sense, I would like to deal (with the issue) with the intent to build a new DPJ," Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura quoted Noda as saying.
The Liberal Democratic Party slammed Noda and the DPJ for causing confusion and urged the prime minister to dissolve the Lower House and call a snap election after the tax bill is enacted.