DPJ, allies mull ruling coalition

SDP figures; leaderless Kokumin Shinto a problem

Kyodo News

A day after the Democratic Party of Japan’s landslide win in the Lower House election, three parties began separate discussions about forming an alliance with the main opposition party to govern the nation.

The DPJ’s top executives met Monday to discuss what is likely to be an alliance with the Social Democratic Party and Kokumin Shinto (People’s New Party), as they prepared to remove the Liberal Democratic Party from power.

DPJ Secretary General Katsuya Okada said formal talks with the other parties had not begun but would start within a few days.

Kokumin Shinto President Tamisuke Watanuki and Secretary General Hisaoki Kamei both lost their seats in Sunday’s election, sending the minor party scrambling to find a new leader.

“I believe Kokumin Shinto will be holding a caucus soon, and unless these things are dealt with, we won’t be moving on with the talks,” Okada said.

The DPJ won by a landslide, grabbing more than 300 seats in the 480-seat chamber. The victory ended more than half a century of almost unbroken rule by the LDP and will usher in DPJ President Yukio Hatoyama, 62, as the new prime minister by mid-September.

The DPJ-led opposition camp secured 340 seats against just 140 for the LDP-New Komeito bloc. The DPJ won 308 seats alone.

SDP members met but said the party would not make official statements on a DPJ-led coalition until a consensus is reached Wednesday at a meeting of representatives from the SDP’s local branches.

Prime Minister Taro Aso held a meeting Monday to officially announce he will step down as LDP president to take responsibility for the party’s crushing defeat.

“I strongly feel responsible about the result and would like to step down from the presidency of the LDP,” Aso said at a news conference.

“The LDP takes the people’s judgment seriously. I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude for all of the support and would like to say to the people that the LDP will definitely get back on its feet and take control of the government.”

The LDP’s executives agreed Monday afternoon to hold a presidential election Sept. 28. The date was chosen to give the party time to gather opinions from its lawmakers and more than 1 million supporters nationwide.

Health minister Yoichi Masuzoe and farm minister Shigeru Ishiba have been floated as possible candidates, but no one so far has expressed an intention to run.

The LDP also lost some big names in single-seat races, including former Foreign Ministers Nobutaka Machimura and Taro Nakayama, as well as Finance Minister Kaoru Yosano and former Finance chief Shoichi Nakagawa.

However, Machimura and Yosano regained their seats in proportional representation.

New Komeito suffered even worse, with party chief Akihiro Ota and heavyweights Kazuo Kitagawa and Tetsuzo Fuyushiba all defeated in their single-seat districts. They also failed to “insure” themselves by being on the party’s proportional-representation list.

Readying the knife

Staff report, Kyodo News

Democratic Party of Japan President Yukio Hatoyama, who is expected to become prime minister later this month, said Monday the DPJ plans to review budgetary requests from scratch.

“When we take the helm of state, we will fundamentally revise the budgetary requests,” Hatoyama said. “Although I cannot say anything for sure without actually taking a look at the requests, I believe revisions will have to be made if things haven’t changed.”

On Monday, a day after the DPJ’s landslide victory, the Finance Ministry finished accepting budgetary requests for the year starting in April 2010 from ministries and agencies.

Hatoyama said it was “unwelcoming” that all ministries and agencies had submitted their requests by Monday, as they always do around this time of year, knowing that a new DPJ-led government would be launched soon.

Based on the requests, the general account budget for fiscal 2010 is estimated to hit an all-time high of about ¥92.13 trillion, up ¥3.58 trillion from the initial fiscal 2009 budget, according to the ministry.

For core policy-related expenditures, the amount is likely to be in line with an upper limit of ¥52.67 trillion endorsed earlier this year by the administration led by the Liberal Democratic Party, the ministry said.

The annual budget is normally drafted by the end of December to make it ready for approval in the Diet by the beginning of each fiscal year.

But following the DPJ’s resounding win in Sunday’s election, this year the deadline for requests, set by the LDP in July, will not carry much significance.

The DPJ, which has never governed, has promised voters to put more authority into the hands of lawmakers and seize the initiative in budgetary matters.

DPJ lawmakers have said they will redo the drafting process for the fiscal 2010 budget.

Over the years, LDP administrations have relied heavily on the powerful bureaucracy in putting together the annual budget.