Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda will replace four Cabinet ministers to gain support for a consumption tax hike from the largest opposition Liberal Democratic Party, sources said.
Noda told reporters on June 3 he will reshuffle his Cabinet on June 4 to "strengthen its functions," adding that he will consider the size of the change.
The prime minister met with Ichiro Ozawa, a former president of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan who is adamantly opposed to a consumption tax hike, on June 3. He told Ozawa that the DPJ will begin full-scale discussions with opposition parties to amend tax hike bills to pass them during the current Diet session.
Noda told reporters he will not be restricted by Ozawa's opposition in holding talks with opposition parties.
Ozawa said he declined Noda's request for cooperation for a consumption tax hike, just as he did in an earlier meeting on May 30.
The LDP has been demanding the replacement of Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka and land minister Takeshi Maeda as a condition for discussing amendments to tax hike bills with the DPJ.
The opposition-controlled Upper House has passed censure motions against Tanaka and Maeda.
A senior LDP official said, “It has been taken for granted that the two ministers against whom the censure motions have been passed will be dismissed.”
In addition, Noda decided to replace agriculture minister Michihiko Kano and Justice Minister Toshio Ogawa, the sources said.
The LDP plans to grill Kano over the suspected leaking of confidential ministry documents to a first secretary at the Chinese Embassy. It has also criticized Ogawa for watching a horse-racing website during a Diet session and other scandals.
Noda plans to forestall possible censure motions against Kano and Ogawa by replacing them.
Noda on June 1 informed DPJ Secretary-General Azuma Koshiishi of his plan to reshuffle his Cabinet, the sources said.
He instructed Koshiishi to speed up discussions to amend tax hike bills to hold a Lower House vote before the current Diet session closes on June 21.
Noda added that he will seek a parliamentary approval for the bills by extending the Diet session.
Koshiishi, who had been opposed to a Cabinet reshuffle, told an aide that the issue is up to the prime minister to decide, according to the sources.
But it remains unclear whether a Cabinet reshuffle alone will ensure support from the LDP and a breakthrough on the consumption tax hike.
For one thing, LDP officials doubt whether Noda will be able to carry out a Diet vote, overriding strong opposition to a consumption tax hike within the DPJ. Koshiishi, moreover, has been opposed to an early Diet vote.
The LDP is also watching whether Noda is determined to accept the party's social security policy proposal.
LDP President Sadakazu Tanigaki has been trying to have Noda promise to dissolve the Lower House for a snap election in exchange for supporting the tax hike bills.
An alternative strategy is to have Noda call for an early Diet vote on the tax hike bills, which Tanigaki hopes will lead to turmoil within the DPJ and the dissolution of the Lower House.
- « Prev
- Next »