Former Finance Minister Kaoru Yosano tendered his resignation Thursday to Tachiagare Nippon (Sunrise Party of Japan), fueling speculation he will join the Democratic Party of Japan-led Cabinet being reshuffled Friday.
Yosano, 72, a fiscal hawk who cofounded the small opposition party last year, was a key figure last month in talks that failed to bring it into the DPJ fold. Tachiagare members snubbed the overture from the ruling bloc, which Yosano said was a reason for him to part ways.
Joining the coalition “would have been a step in pushing forward our policies,” Yosano told reporters Thursday, adding he still feels “disappointed” with the decision reached by his Tachiagare colleagues.
“Tachiagare Nippon is a party centered on its political beliefs. But my job is to realize those policies,” he said.
Yosano denied reports that he was approached by Prime Minister Naoto Kan to join his new Cabinet, calling it a coincidence that his resignation came a day before the Cabinet reshuffle.
He said he decided last week to leave the party and hasn’t been in touch with Kan or DPJ Secretary General Katsuya Okada since last year’s coalition talks.
But the veteran lawmaker acknowledged he is willing to support the ruling bloc, considering Kan’s efforts to rectify Japan’s fiscal problems, push for drastic tax reform and join the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade pact.
“These are some of the vital issues that need to be addressed,” Yosano said. “I am willing to lend a hand, if there is anything I can help with.”
Kan reportedly may ask Yosano to take charge of tax and social security issues as a Cabinet member or work on those issues as a special adviser to the prime minister.
Asked how he would respond if Kan offers him a Cabinet position, Yosano said he would “think about it when the time comes.”
Pundits, meanwhile, viewed Yosano’s move Thursday as a possible win-win scenario for both the veteran and the DPJ, despite criticism that the DPJ is merely trying to secure and control as many Diet seats as possible.
“What Yosano can offer the DPJ is his experience as a veteran lawmaker and the knowhow to run the government, which is something (the DPJ) lacks,” noted political commentator Harumi Arima told The Japan Times.
It would have been impossible for Yosano to aid the government had he stayed with Tachiagare Nippon, he said.
An expert in financial affairs, Yosano shares Kan’s desire to hike the consumption tax, and also has close ties with scandal-tainted DPJ kingpin Ichiro Ozawa.
“Generally speaking, there is a lot of similarity between DPJ policies and what Yosano believes in,” Arima said, denying any chasm between Yosano, a former heavyweight in the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party, and Kan’s administration.
Yosano’s move Thursday is also a first step for the DPJ to get past the divided Diet, since the ruling bloc lacks the power to secure Upper House passage of budget-related bills. Although the veteran’s departure from Tachiagare Nippon does not provide the votes needed to ram through any bills, analyst Arima said expanding the support one lawmaker at a time is crucial for Kan.
“No matter how it may appear in the eyes of the public, stabilizing the government is essential for the DPJ,” he said. While it is unclear if other opposition parties and lawmakers may follow in Yosano’s footsteps, it is a positive move with the Diet session set to start up later this month, he said.
Yosano, who joined the Lower House in 1976, was originally an LDP member and served in key posts, including as the party’s policy chief. The Tokyo native was appointed chief Cabinet secretary in 2007 under Shinzo Abe.
He ran in the LDP’s presidential race in 2008 — advocating a raise in the consumption tax — but finished second to Taro Aso.