Four one short of forming party

by Kazuaki Nagata

Four Upper House lawmakers Friday declared the formation of Kaikaku Club, a tentative new party, saying they want to change the situation in the currently divided Diet.

But a fifth lawmaker, the Democratic Party of Japan’s Yumiko Himei, who had earlier declared she would join the new party, reversed herself. Appearing in a news conference later Friday with DPJ executives Naoto Kan and Yukio Hatoyama, she said she will remain in the fold.

The four include Hideo Watanabe and Yasuhiro Oe, who resigned Thursday from the DPJ, and independents Hiroyuki Arai and Shinpei Matsushita. They said they submitted a request to form the five-member party Thursday and it was accepted. But since five members are required to form a party, the four must find another recruit.

The public has been frustrated with the stalled discussions and hamstrung decision-making in the Diet, where the opposition camp controls the Upper House and the Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling bloc controls the lower chamber, the four said.

“The Upper House is now being used as a tool of the Lower House’s power balance,” party leader Watanabe said. “There has been a lot of speculation, but our basic foundation for forming the party is to pursue the genuine purpose of the Upper House and enhance the value of the two-chamber system.”

The four said they plan to facilitate discussions with other parties, whether the ruling bloc, based on policies.

The DPJ currently holds 110 of the 242 Upper House seats. The opposition parties hold 137 in total, so even if the four members of the new party were to side with the ruling bloc, it will still not hold a majority.

When Himei did not appear with the four Kaikaku Club members at a briefing, Watanabe said there had been pressure on her not to join the party, and added, “I am a little concerned.”

Himei told reporters she decided against joining the new party because she came to realize its founding is the result of the LDP’s efforts to divide the DPJ.

“I have been working based on a belief that rather than dealing with political power games, dealing with policies is the point of the House of Councilors,” she said. “But in the divided Diet, power games have often been prioritized.”