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Friday, Aug. 31, 2012
Split DPJ's next task: presidential poll
By MASAMI ITO
Putting the censure motion against Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda in its rearview mirror, the ruling Democratic Party of Japan on Thursday turned its attention to a fast-closing milestone: its Sept. 21 presidential election.
While few political insiders and observers believe Noda will lose his job, some in his party remain staunchly opposed to his key goals, including hiking the sales tax and joining the TransPacific Partnership agreement.
Former farm minister Masahiko Yamada and former Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka have been floated as possible challengers to Noda.
Yamada and other DPJ lawmakers established their own group Thursday and will hold a "preliminary election" next week to choose one or more candidates to run against Noda. So far 59 lawmakers have pledged to join Minshuto Fukkatsu Kaigi (the DPJ Revival Conference), its organizers said.
After the gathering, Yamada declined to say if he'd throw his hat in the ring but vowed to revamp the DPJ through the new intraparty group.
"I have come this far in starting the revival conference with the cooperation of everyone, and my role is the organizer," Yamada said when asked if he was going to run. "What is important is to start an active movement to stop the DPJ from going in the direction it is going and to bring it back to its origins.
"For his part, Noda said he intended to carry on and tackle the many issues left unresolved, including passing a deficit-bond bill to cover a large portion of the fiscal 2012 budget. But with opposition parties refusing to deliberate on government-sponsored bills, the Diet is in a de facto recess.
"I take (the Wednesday censure motion) seriously. I would like to firmly deal with the various issues we are facing," Noda said.
Last month, Noda promised the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito he would dissolve the Lower House and call a snap election "soon" if the two parties voted for the tax hike. But the opposition allies turned around and submitted a censure motion against him, angering some DPJ lawmakers, who said the promise had been shattered.
Apparently bidding to appease the LDP, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said Noda had not backed away from his promise, although the dissolution would not be immediate. The LDP is still demanding that Noda dissolve the lower chamber in exchange for its cooperation in enacting legislation.
"I think Prime Minister Noda's words (to hold an election) soon are very grave and led to the trilateral agreement. I don't think he will break his promise," Fujimura said.
Meanwhile, the LDP continues to struggle to justify its support for a censure bid that was based on criticism of a tax hike agreed to in the three-party deal.
New Komeito abstained from the censure vote and criticized the LDP for the contradiction.
"We proceeded in a logical manner," New Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi told reporters Wednesday evening after the vote. "It was a decision based on our policies and political position not to support a bid that denies the trilateral agreement."
But on a TBS news program Thursday afternoon, LDP lawmaker Ichita Yamamoto stressed the necessity of voting for the censure motion.
"We had to risk criticism to support the bid because Japan's diplomacy and economy will be destroyed if the Noda administration continues," Yamamoto explained.