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Friday, July 13, 2012
DPJ ranks told to back party's tax hike goal or get thrown off ticket
Noda: My way or the highway
By MASAMI ITO
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on Thursday reaffirmed his insistence that lawmakers of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan continue to toe the line in support of his key tax hike goal or face being left off the ticket in the next general election.
The leader's decision is likely to draw flak from DPJ members who voted against or abstained from voting in the Lower House on the tax hike bill at the end of June — including former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and former farm minister Masahiko Yamada — and could trigger more lawmakers to follow kingpin Ichiro Ozawa's lead and bolt.
Noda declared during a Lower House Budget Committee session Thursday that the DPJ would state that it plans to raise the consumption tax in its next election campaign platform. During the 2009 Lower House election campaign, in which the DPJ seized government control in a historic victory, the party vowed not to pursue a tax hike in the four-year term.
"It was a hard decision to make, but we believe that securing a sustainable social security system and stable sources of revenue are in the interests of the people . . . and I would like to specify (the tax hike) in the manifesto as a promise," Noda said.
He added that everyone who wants to run on the DPJ ticket in the next general election would have to support the tax hike. "If they cannot agree with what is clearly stated in the manifesto, they will be crossed off as official candidates," Noda said.
Meanwhile, Ozawa on Thursday continued to reach out to various parties and individuals to strengthen his new party, Kokumin no Seikatsu ga Daiichi (People's Life First).
Ozawa signed an agreement with Kizuna Party to join forces in the Lower House. Together, the two parties will have 46 members in the lower chamber and constitute the third-largest force, after the DPJ and the Liberal Democratic Party.
The power broker also held a nonpartisan study group, which was attended by 69 lawmakers, including the DPJ's Yamada and Sakihito Ozawa as well as New Party Daichi's Kenko Matsuki and Tomohiro Ishikawa. However, the number of lawmakers attending the weekly meeting, which used to draw over 100 participants, is on the decline.
"A politician's goals, responsibility and mission are the same for everyone regardless of his or her party," Ozawa told the meeting. "I believe that we are headed toward bigger change in the latter half of this year, not only in the Japanese political world but politically and economically in the world and . . . I would like to join hands to continue working toward political stability to overcome these difficult times."
Participants praised Ozawa's decision not to insist that members vote in lockstep. Most parties, including the DPJ, allow free discussion but when it comes time to vote, members must in principle follow the party's orders.
After the recent tax bill vote, Ozawa and his followers were expelled as punishment, even as they moved to leave the party. Other dissidents who remained in the DPJ had their party membership suspended or were given warnings by the party executives.
"This tax hike fiasco would never have happened if (the DPJ) had let everyone vote freely. . . . If we change this decision-making process in the Diet, bills with the majority vote would pass while those without it would not — that is the origin of a majority decision in a democracy," said Sakihito Ozawa, former environment minister who abstained from voting on the tax bill but remained in the DPJ.