Political heavyweight Ichiro Ozawa said he will wait until July 2 to decide whether to throw the ruling party in disarray by leaving to protest Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s consumption tax hike bill.
"I have to reach my decision on Monday," Ozawa said after inconclusive 40-minute talks with Azuma Koshiishi, secretary-general of the Democratic Party of Japan, on June 29.
The two held two meetings June 28 to discuss the political fallout from June 26, when the Lower House passed a bill to raise the consumption tax rate.
Fifty-seven DPJ lawmakers, including Ozawa, voted against the bill.
Ozawa, a former DPJ president, leads the largest intra-party faction. If he bolts from the party, about 40 Lower House members and about 15 Upper House members could follow.
During the June 29 meeting, Koshiishi pleaded with Ozawa to stay on. Ozawa, ever-recalcitrant, demanded that the bill be retracted.
Koshiishi finally asked Ozawa to delay making a final decision until July 2, and Ozawa agreed.
"We could not come up with a good idea to solve the current situation," Ozawa said after the meeting. "It will be good if an agreement is reached to (satisfy) both sides. But I will decide (on whether to stay or leave the party) even if no agreement is reached."
Before and after his meeting with Koshiishi, Ozawa huddled with 10 loyalist lawmakers to discuss options.
An aide said they were gearing up to leave the DPJ.
After Ozawa and Koshiishi met on June 28, rumors circulated that Koshiishi had proposed amending the consumption tax bill before an Upper House vote to persuade Ozawa to stay on.
A senior government official immediately called Koshiishi for an explanation, and Koshiishi denied having made such a proposal, sources said.
At a news conference on June 29, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said the government believes the legislation, which was agreed on by the DPJ, the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito, will pass the Upper House without any amendment.
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