The specter of the ruling party's collapse edged closer after political heavyweight Ichiro Ozawa again vowed to defy the leadership and vote against a bill to raise the consumption tax rate in the Lower House.
Ozawa, a former president of the Democratic Party of Japan, is a force to be reckoned with as he heads the largest faction within the party.
Ozawa indicated June 21 he may even bolt from the DPJ and form a new party with other tax hike opponents after the Lower House vote, which could come as early as June 22.
"I cannot accept pressing ahead with the tax hike (without social security reform)," Ozawa told DPJ Secretary-General Azuma Koshiishi during a meeting held at Koshiishi's behest to defuse the crisis within the DPJ.
The proposed legislation would raise the consumption tax rate, now at 5 percent, to 8 percent in April 2014 and 10 percent in October 2015.
"I believe (what I say) represents justice for the general public," Ozawa told reporters after the meeting. "There is absolutely no way I can support (the bill)."
Ozawa did not rule out leaving the DPJ and throwing it into turmoil by setting up a new party with like-minded lawmakers following the Diet vote.
"There are a number of options, although I have no concrete plans at the moment," he said. "I will consult with my colleagues following the vote and pick the best course."
Ozawa made clear he was not concerned about what punishment will be meted out to him for defying the party line.
"The matter has nothing to do with punishment and whatnot," he said. "I will strive to do my best in line with my argument that the top priority should be on people's lives."
Following his meeting with Koshiishi, Ozawa attended a gathering of his faction and called on the members to vote against the tax hike bill as one.
"Allowing this tax increase to go ahead amounts to an act of treason against the public," he said. "Justice is on our side. I ask each of you to remember what made you become a politician before you make your decision (on how to vote)."
Ozawa was expected to huddle with close aides on the evening of June 21 to foster solidarity.
A senior member of Ozawa's faction told the members June 20 to prepare for the possible creation of a new party.
It remains to be seen, however, how quickly this could come about. This is because some of Ozawa's followers are wary about setting up a new party with Ozawa even though they are ready to vote against the tax hike bill.
In a plenary session on June 21, the Lower House decided to extend the current Diet session, due to close that day, by 79 days until Sept. 8. The decision reflected the outcome of a majority of votes by the DPJ and other parties.
Koshiishi on June 21 met Nobuteru Ishihara, secretary-general of the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party, and Yoshihisa Inoue, secretary-general of the smaller opposition New Komeito, and told them he would do his utmost to seek a vote on the tax hike in the Lower House on June 22.
Ishihara and Inoue offered their support.
- « Prev
- Next »