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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Hatoyama's DPJ membership suspension halved

Staff writer

The ruling Democratic Party of Japan said Monday it will halve the six-month party membership suspension leveled against former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama for not siding with the DPJ in the Lower House vote on the bill to double the 5 percent sales tax.

DPJ executives at the standing officers committee issued their final decision in the afternoon following recommendations from the party's ethics panel, which concluded earlier in the day that slapping Hatoyama with a six-month suspension while handing others who failed to vote in favor of the party's bill with just two-month suspensions "lacks balance, and the penalty should be reconsidered."

Koji Matsui, one of the committee members, said after the meeting there was no explanation as to why the suspension was shortened to three months instead of four, but indicated the decision was probably based on a recommendation by DPJ Secretary General Azuma Koshiishi to strike "an overall balance."

The DPJ moved to suspend Hatoyama's membership for six months last week after he voted against the tax hike bill, which has been a key goal of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, the party president. The DPJ had effectively ordered all its members to vote in favor of the legislation, which also had the endorsement of the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito, the main opposition forces.

But unlike Ichiro Ozawa, who preceded Hatoyama as DPJ president before the party came to power in 2009 and left the party last week after voting against the bill, Hatoyama remained in the DPJ.

The executive committee initially felt Hatoyama deserved a harsher punishment than the two-month suspension given to 17 other DPJ members who also did not support the bill but stayed in the fold, partly because Hatoyama had held positions of power and wielded strong influence within the party.

With the three-month suspension, Hatoyama will not be able to run for president in September or vote at the party convention the same month.

On Monday, the DPJ executives also finalized last week's decision to expel 37 Lower House members, including Ozawa. The rebels had tendered letters of resignation, which were rejected by the DPJ as it sought to formally eject them.

Meanwhile, the DPJ warned 15 members who abstained from the tax hike vote and accepted the letters of resignation submitted by 13 Upper House members, since no vote had taken place in their chamber.

The party also plans to expel Gaku Kato, a Lower House member who voted against the bill and submitted a letter of resignation last week, after discussing his case in the ethics committee sometime soon, Matsui said.

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The Japan Times

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