DPJ members bolt party over Noda tax plan

Prime minister resolute despite nine lawmakers' resignations

by Masami Ito

Staff Writer

In a show of defiance against Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s policies, in particular a plan to raise the consumption tax, nine Democratic Party of Japan lawmakers submitted their resignations Wednesday to protest Noda’s leadership.

Akira Uchiyama, a close aide to DPJ kingpin Ichiro Ozawa, and Yasunori Saito from Miyagi, one of the prefectures hardest hit by the March 11 disasters, were among those to resign after the party formally proposed a two-stage tax hike.

The Noda administration “has broken each and every public commitment and the manifesto and we have lost face,” Uchiyama told reporters after handing in his resignation. “We didn’t want to be called liars so we had no choice but to leave the party.”

At a meeting later in the day, DPJ Secretary General Azuma Koshiishi informed Uchiyama that the party’s leadership would accept the resignations.

The nine lawmakers are looking at forming a new party with Kenko Matsuki, another close Ozawa aide, who was kicked out of the DPJ in June after siding with the opposition force in voting for a no-confidence bid against then Prime Minister Naoto Kan and his Cabinet.

“I have decided to take action in order to bring together a force to once again adhere to the campaign pledge and cut into vested interests,” Saito said.

At a Wednesday morning news conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said he would “closely observe” the bolting lawmakers’ actions.

“I think that each lawmaker has his or her way of thinking and their political actions are based on that. . .. I would like to watch the situation closely,” Fujimura said.

Noda is set to submit a bill on the tax hike to the Diet by March. However, the latest move will inevitably weaken his political footing.

But Fujimura indicated the exodus would not affect Noda’s tax hike policy. The prime minister has repeatedly stressed his intention to pave the way for a tax hike to deal with the country’s snowballing debt.

“There is no mistake that (Noda’s) resolution is firm,” Fujimura said. Raising the consumption tax “is not an issue for one political party at all. Regardless of what party they belong to, I think the prime minister has been taking responsibility as someone in the position to consider the current state of Japan and the future of our social security.”

In a related development later in the day, another DPJ lawmaker, Upper House member Yoshiro Yokomine, also submitted a letter of resignation to the party. People close to him said the move is “of a personal nature” and unrelated to the exit of the other nine lawmakers.

Information from Kyodo added