Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda ordered ruling party Secretary-General Azuma Koshiishi to do something he is loath to do: arrange a Lower House vote on consumption tax hike legislation with the opposition parties.
“We must reach a conclusion (on the consumption tax hike) during the current Diet session,” Noda told a news conference on June 4 after a Cabinet reshuffle intended to appease the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party. “I will do what I should do for the nation. I have no interests other than this determination.”
Noda told key officials of the Democratic Party of Japan and the government--including Koshiishi--to speed up discussions with the LDP to amend tax hike bills for a Lower House vote before the Diet session closes on June 21.
“We are in a critical phase. Give me accurate information every day,” Noda said. “I will make a necessary judgment.”
However, Koshiishi, the No. 2 man in the DPJ, has been against holding an early Diet vote, fearing a large number of opponents of the tax hike, including political heavyweight and ally Ichiro Ozawa, would leave the party.
Noda earlier instructed Koshiishi to accelerate talks with the LDP, but Koshiishi proposed that amendment discussions include all opposition parties, including smaller ones dead set against a consumption tax hike.
Noda flatly rejected Koshiishi’s idea at the news conference on June 4.
“We will never come to any agreements if all opposition parties gather and talk,” the prime minister said. “I have no intention whatever of exploring such an approach.”
However, Koshiishi has shown reluctance to follow the orders of Noda, the DPJ president.
The prime minister on June 4 told Koshiishi to set a date for a Diet hearing on tax hike bills, a precondition for a parliamentary vote, and convey it to LDP Secretary-General Nobuteru Ishihara.
The following day, the DPJ proposed to the LDP that the hearing be held on June 12 and 13.
Koshiishi was scheduled to meet with his counterparts from the LDP and New Komeito on June 5.
Koshiishi said the DPJ and the LDP agree how the consumption tax hike legislation should be amended. But he said it will be difficult for the DPJ to accept the LDP’s social security and other proposals as a condition for its support for the tax hike.
“It will deny our policy and manifesto altogether,” Koshiishi told a news conference on June 4. “(If the LDP makes such a demand) we cannot enter amendment discussions.”
LDP officials doubt that Koshiishi will carry through Noda’s instructions to arrange a Lower House vote by June 21.
“The prime minister’s determination is one thing, but what is important is whether it will lead to concrete action and results,” LDP President Sadakazu Tanigaki said. “I hope (Koshiishi having not been replaced) will not discourage the prime minister’s enthusiasm.”
The LDP plans to decide whether it will attend amendment discussions after seeing if the DPJ will set a date for a Diet hearing.
Ishihara on June 4 discussed the issue with LDP lawmaker Bunmei Ibuki, director of a special Lower House committee deliberating consumption tax hike bills.
The two reconfirmed an earlier LDP policy of not entering talks with the DPJ unless Koshiishi specifies a date for a Diet vote.
Ishihara even taunted Koshiishi over the phone, criticizing his proposal for amendment talks with all opposition parties.
Noda suggested that a Diet vote will be taken after an agreement is reached between the DPJ, the LDP and New Komeito on the amendments.
“It will be no good to leave discussions inconclusive and have (the bills) voted down,” Noda told the June 4 news conference. “(A date for a vote will be decided) depending on progress in discussions.”
The LDP and New Komeito suspect that Koshiishi may not agree to an early vote, citing a lack of progress in the talks.
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