It's called having your cake and eating it.
When Shizuka Kamei, one of the grizzled old men of Japanese politics, was put in the embarrassing position on April 6 of having to leave the party he helped found, he had a surprise in store for listeners.
"I feel responsibility for bringing about confusion in our party. I will leave the party while remaining in my post as party leader," the former senior police officer and sixth-level aikido black belt explained.
Kamei and other lawmakers formed the People's New Party (PNP) in 2005 after bolting from the Liberal Democratic Party over the postal privatization program being pushed by then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.
But the 75-year-old veteran, along with PNP policy chief Akiko Kamei, who is not related, have now been forced to leave the party after the refusal of six other PNP lawmakers to abandon a coalition with the ruling Democratic Party of Japan over legislation to raise the consumption tax rate.
The remaining six PNP lawmakers chose Shozaburo Jimi, the state minister in charge of financial services, as their new leader.
Jimi met with Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on April 6 and confirmed the PNP's intention to remain in the coalition. He apologized for the confusion caused by the PNP split over the consumption tax issue.
Kamei, meanwhile, is shifting his focus to forming a new party with veteran Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara, 79. An associate of Kamei's said the new party could be formed as early as May.
"A growing number of people feel that things cannot be left up to national lawmakers," Kamei said. "While I am an independent now, it will only be natural to create a grouping among those of like minds. It will occur sooner rather than later."
Later on April 6, Kamei met with Ishihara as well as Takeo Hiranuma, head of the Sunrise Party of Japan, and Hiroyuki Sonoda, the Sunrise Party of Japan’s secretary-general. Hiranuma joined Ishihara and Kamei in January in proposing the new party.
Possible cooperation with controversial Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, who met with Ishihara on April 4, has been mooted.
The confusion within the PNP had made it difficult for the DPJ to proceed with Diet deliberations. That prompted a number of high-ranking DPJ executives to press their PNP counterparts to settle the party situation as quickly as possible, which led to the decision to remove Kamei as party head and turn to Jimi.
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