DPJ and Kokumin Shinto join up on postal issue

by Kazuaki Nagata

A fundamental review of postal privatization will be included in the platforms of both the Democratic Party of Japan and Kokumin Shinto (People’s New Party) for the general election expected later this year, they agreed Tuesday.

DPJ President Ichiro Ozawa and Kokumin Shinto leader Tamisuke Watanuki reached the agreement at a meeting to discuss ways to cooperate in the Lower House election.

In the agreement, the parties asserted that current postal services are now less convenient for the public and that the future of the four companies created by the privatization last year remains unclear, they said.

The review includes creating a law to freeze sales of government-held shares in Japan Post Holdings Co., Japan Post Bank Co. and Japan Post Insurance Co.

The postal privatization plan was the brainchild of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. After much political wrangling and a general election that served as a referendum on the issue, the privatization bill was passed into law in 2005. Japan Post was privatized last Oct. 1.

The meeting between the party leaders followed Ozawa’s suggestion Monday that the DPJ and Kokumin Shinto’s nine lawmakers join forces to better compete against the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in the Lower House election.

In Matsuyama, Ehime Prefecture, Ozawa said he sees the two parties “becoming one, as an option.”

After Tuesday’s meeting, Watanuki said that particular topic was not discussed.

But Kyodo News quoted party sources as saying later in the day that the DPJ will formally propose a merger to Kokumin Shinto later this week, with hopes of reaching an agreement by Monday.

The DPJ is clearly ramping up efforts to strengthen ties with other opposition parties ahead of the election.

In the afternoon, the DPJ announced it will back Yoshihu Arita, a journalist expected to run in the Tokyo No. 11 district in the next Lower House election as a candidate for New Party Nippon, another opposition party.

“The opposition parties are cooperating for the future of Japan,” said New Party Nippon leader Yasuo Tanaka, a member of the Upper House.

Ota to lead Komeito

Kyodo News

Unchallenged by other candidates, Akihiro Ota was assured of re-election Tuesday as leader of New Komeito, the coalition partner of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

Ota’s next two-year term will be formally endorsed at a party convention Sept. 23.

Ota is expected to retain key party executives, including Secretary General Kazuo Kitagawa and policy chief Natsuo Yamaguchi, as the likelihood of an early House of Representatives election continues to increase.

New Komeito is also likely to step up its cooperation with the LDP regarding the next general election following criticism that discord between the two parties over their election strategy was a factor in Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda’s decision to step down.

New Komeito, backed by the major lay Buddhist organization Soka Gakkai, provides the LDP with a powerful vote-gathering machine.

With regard to the general election, which the ruling parties fear could result in knocking them out of power, Ota has said the goal is to gain a majority for the ruling coalition and that his party will do its best to increase its presence in the Lower House by one to four seats from the current 31.

The ruling parties hold a two-thirds majority in the lower chamber, while the opposition parties control the less powerful House of Councilors.

Ota, 62, became chief representative of New Komeito in September 2006.