The ruling Democratic Party of Japan, the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito agreed on June 15 on a consumption tax hike and social security reform legislation, after the DPJ approved to shelve key social security policies in its 2009 manifesto as a concession.
With members of former DPJ leader Ichiro Ozawa’s group and some of the party's non-allied members opposing the agreement, the pressure will be on Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to bring the legislation to a Lower House vote before the current Diet session closes on June 21.
On June 15, the deadline for amendment talks, representatives from the DPJ and LDP agreed on amending the government’s consumption tax hike and other bills and the LDP’s social security reform bill.
The DPJ agreed to “shelve” two key social security proposals in its 2009 manifesto--the creation of a minimum pension program and the abolishment of a medical insurance program for those 75 years old or older--to win support from the LDP and New Komeito for the consumption tax hike.
The LDP had demanded the DPJ retract its manifesto for the 2009 Lower House election, in which the party came to power on and where it outlined its goals and philosophy. The DPJ and the LDP agreed that the two policies will be discussed at a new panel on social security reforms.
The DPJ and the LDP have been negotiating a three-party agreement with New Komeito, a small opposition party.
New Komeito’s joint meeting of members of both houses met on June 15 and left the decision entirely to Secretary-General Yoshihisa Inoue in a move toward a three-party agreement.
DPJ Vice President Keishu Tanaka, one of the middle-of-the-roaders opposing the agreement, submitted a petition to Secretary-General Azuma Koshiishi on June 15, demanding a meeting of party lawmakers be held for approval of the amendments. The petition carried the signatures of 154 lawmakers.
Tanaka met with Noda at the prime minister’s office also that day and asked him to hold a meeting of party lawmakers. Noda said he wants to explain about the negotiations with the LDP and New Komeito if a meeting is set up, according to Tanaka.
Ozawa, who controls the largest group of members within the DPJ, has been particularly critical of the Noda administration’s plan to raise the consumption tax rate from the current 5 percent to 10 percent by 2015.
A focus will be how many DPJ lawmakers oppose the legislation if the bills are put to a Lower House vote.
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