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Saturday, July 7, 2012

DPJ scrambles to limit fallout from Ozawa exit


Staff writer

The departure of Ichiro Ozawa and his followers continued to rock the Democratic Party of Japan on Friday as its executive scrambled to prevent any more members from quitting or turning against Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.

Although only 38 Lower House lawmakers have left the DPJ so far, another 33 members who voted against the sales tax bill or abstained last week remain in the ruling party, leaving wide open the possibility that they could join the new party Ozawa and his followers plan to inaugurate next week.

Alternatively, they could side with opposition parties and support a no-confidence motion against Noda that could potentially result in the downfall of his administration.

DPJ executives, therefore, are desperate to not only hang on to dissenting members but to emphasize they are still welcome.

DPJ Secretary General Azuma Koshiishi stressed that even though the party membership of former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and 18 other tax hike rebels has been suspended as punishment, they would all be reinstated in the event of a general election.

During a news conference Friday afternoon, DPJ Deputy Secretary General Shinji Tarutoko echoed Koshiishi's comments about lifting the sanctions if the Lower House is dissolved, and vowed to devote himself to rebuilding the strife-torn party.

"We must make sure that no more people leave the party. I would like all remaining members to work together wholeheartedly," Tarutoko said. "Personally, I would like to run in the next election" with all DPJ lawmakers — even those who failed to support the tax hike bill.

Tarutoko stressed that DPJ members who rejected Noda's key policy goal are welcome to remain in the fold as long as they are in agreement with "the bigger picture," referring to the prime minister's comprehensive reform package.

"No party can say all its members are in full agreement with every policy . . . and if they were to be eliminated every time they expressed opposition, the group would not be able to survive," Tarutoko said. "Personally, I believe we should respect the fact that we are all aiming for the same ultimate goal."

Meanwhile, Kenji Yamaoka, who will be appointed acting president of Ozawa's envisioned party, told a meeting of expelled DPJ members Friday afternoon that he expects more lawmakers to join it in the near future.

"We need to gather our strength and be aware that we are the core members who will change the future of Japan," Yamaoka said. "We need to remain strong in the Diet because I believe more people will join our group."

Ozawa has expressed his intention to create a coalition along the lines of Italy's so-called Olive Tree alliance, which formed successive ruling coalitions of multiple small parties starting in 1995. He already has voiced his willingness to work with the Kizuna Party, and is also expected to reach out to the Social Democratic Party and New Party Daichi.

The intention is to expand the coalition so it can exert as much influence as possible in the divided Diet and capitalize on the opposition camp's control of the Upper House.

"We need to form the kind of alliance that will pursue policies for the people . . . (and) steer politics back toward representing their will," Yamaoka said.



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The Japan Times

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