Six lawmakers of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan voted against proposed legislation to raise the consumption tax rate during an Upper House plenary session Aug. 10, where it passed and became law.
The tax rate, now at 5 percent, will be raised to 8 percent in April 2014 and 10 percent in October 2015.
"I could not bring myself to vote for something that was not in our manifesto pledge to the electorate," Emiko Uematsu told reporters after she voted against the bills.
Masashi Mito, another rebel, pointed out that the DPJ had yet to make good on its plan to reduce the number of Diet seats as a means of cutting spending.
"We cannot gain the understanding of the public unless we also chip away at our own privileges," he said.
The DPJ leadership had been canvassing potential rebels behind the scenes since Upper House deliberations on the bills began in July.
The largest parliamentary group in the Upper House, affiliated with the DPJ, has 88 members, and is only one seat ahead of the runner-up group of 87, led by the Liberal Democratic Party, the main opposition party.
The DPJ risked being deserted by tax hike opponents and losing its status as the largest group in the chamber if it took too much of a hard-line stance against the rebels.
"As for myself, I am very regretful about the outcome," DPJ Secretary-General Azuma Koshiishi told reporters after the voting on Aug. 10.
Although none of the six rebels has indicated an intention to bolt from the DPJ, Yukishige Okubo indicated he is thinking about it.
"I have no intention of leaving the party immediately," he said.
The DPJ leadership is considering punishing the six rebels by suspending their party privileges for two months, the same punishments doled out to rebels in the Lower House.
That would disqualify the rebels from voting in the DPJ presidential election scheduled for Sept. 21.
To prevent the internal rift from widening, the party leadership is also considering shortening the suspension period to just one month.
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