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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Personality clashes mar Ozawa quest for tieups


Staff writer

OSAKA — Former Democratic Party of Japan strongman Ichiro Ozawa and his 48 disciples who quit the ruling party are hoping to forge a conservative-ultraconservative bloc involving national and regional political groups, something akin to the center-left Olive Tree Coalition that brought Romano Prodi to power in Italy in 1996.

But although Ozawa is looking for like-minded forces in Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka, his fundamental differences with Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto's Osaka Ishin no Kai (One Osaka) group and his personal animosity with hawkish Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara may nip such an olive tree in the bud.

Ozawa's yet-to-be formed party may seek a tieup with emerging regional political forces, such as the one led by Hashimoto, Ishihara, and Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura and Aichi Gov. Hideaki Omura, both of whom seek tax reform and oppose the way the central government pushed through the bill to raise the consumption tax.

Muneo Suzuki, the sole representative of New Party Daichi and a former Liberal Democratic Party member who was paroled last year after serving a one-year prison sentence for fraud, and Ozawa allies like Kenji Yamaoka, who joined the exodus from the DPJ, have indicated they personally favor a tieup with Osaka Ishin no Kai, which is expected to field up to 300 candidates in the next Lower House election.

But speaking to reporters Monday afternoon, Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui, the secretary general of Osaka Ishin no Kai, played down the possibility of joining forces with Ozawa.

"The Democratic Party of Japan's 2009 platform is incompatible with the manifesto we in Ishin no Kai are discussing, and Ishin no Kai won't join Ozawa's group," Matsui said.

In particular, Osaka Ishin no Kai has effectively agreed with the consumption tax hike, which Ozawa vehemently opposes and is the issue that led him to resign from the DPJ. The group also favors Japan's entrance into the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade process, which Ozawa and many of his allies also oppose.

Hashimoto meanwhile has been vague about entering a coalition.

"Most people realize a tax increase can't be avoided. But it's the way the government did it. People realize there is notenough tax money, but the way politicians and the central government passed the law to raise the consumption tax was unconvincing," Hashimoto said Monday.

Yet Hashimoto also said he could understand why Ozawa stuck to his guns, noting the DPJ promised in its 2009 election platform that if it came to power, it would not seek a consumption tax hike for four years. Ozawa was the key strategist credited with bringing the DPJ to power in 2009.

And unlike Matsui, Hashimoto is taking a wait-and-see attitude toward the notion of a tieup with Ozawa.

But other potential coalition partners of Hashimoto have rejected any tieup with Ozawa.

Ishihara, who plans to form his own party along with Tachiagare Nippon (Sunrise Party of Japan) head Takeo Hiranuma and former Kokumin Shinto (People's New Party) chief Shizuka Kamei, is expected to join Hashimoto in a coalition after the next Lower House election.



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The Japan Times

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