In policy shift, Komeito to oppose extra budget

Kyodo News

New Komeito is poised to oppose the government’s ¥4.4 trillion supplementary budget in a reversal of its earlier position, party members said Tuesday.

The party is dissatisfied with Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s handling of the political money scandal involving Democratic Party of Japan kingpin Ichiro Ozawa and the leak of video footage of the September collisions between two Japanese patrol boats and a Chinese trawler off the Senkaku Islands.

“We will not be able to gain understanding from supporters if we cooperate with the Kan government. The situation has changed,” a senior New Komeito Diet member said. “Our opposition to the extra budget means we will keep a distance from the government.”

But some New Komeito lawmakers insist the supplementary budget should be enacted quickly to help the sluggish economy, and the party is set to hold a meeting of senior lawmakers to finalize its position on the extra budget, the members said.

New Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi told a news conference Tuesday that the Kan Cabinet has failed to make a positive response to the money scandal and that it has been handed a “harsh evaluation” from the public over its problematic foreign policies.

Yamaguchi was apparently referring to soured ties between Japan and China in the wake of the Sept. 7 incident off the Senkaku Islands as well as Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s visit Nov. 1 to one of the Russian-held islands off Hokkaido.

Political sources said New Komeito has likely been influenced by recent declines in public support for the Kan Cabinet. In a Kyodo News poll over the weekend, the public approval rating for the Cabinet plunged to 32.7 percent, down 14.9 percentage points from the previous survey in early October.

The fiscal 2010 supplementary budget, submitted to the Diet last month, is intended to partly finance a stimulus package worth some ¥5 trillion that aims to fight the impact of the yen’s recent sharp rise and kick start the deflation-plagued economy.