DPJ deputy pushes for consensus on tax, social security reform bills

Okada woos opposition camp

Kyodo

Deputy Prime Minister Katsuya Okada on Sunday acknowledged the importance of the opposition parties in passing social security and tax reform legislation, including the sales tax hike.

“The bills will not pass the House of Councilors without the support of the opposition parties, particularly the Liberal Democratic Party,” Okada said on a TV program aired by NHK. “It is quite important to build consensus during the deliberations at the House of Representatives.”

The Upper House is still in under the control of the opposition bloc.

Okada also said there are “considerable voices within the LDP seeking a tax increase.”

Shizuka Kamei, leader of Kokumin Shinto (People’s New Party), the junior coalition partner of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, repeated that his party will exit the coalition over the issue.

“I have already told Prime Minister (Yoshihiko) Noda,” Kamei, a vocal opponent of the levy, said. “It is already decided.”

Kamei said he will form a new political party to be headed by Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara.

Despite his hardline stance, the majority of his party wants to maintain its partnership with the DPJ. This includes Financial Services Minister Shozaburo Jimi, a Kokumin Shinto member who signed the tax hike bill in a Cabinet meeting last week.

The proposal to double the sales tax has drawn fire even from DPJ lawmakers, particularly those close to former party chief Ichiro Ozawa, who is being harangued in a prolonged trial.

Among them, Takatane Kiuchi, a Lower House member from the Tokyo No. 9 constituency, is considering leaving the party over the tax bills, sources said Sunday.

On Friday, four senior vice ministers and parliamentary secretaries close to Ozawa submitted letters of resignation to the prime minister’s office to protest the Cabinet’s approval of the tax bill. Some DPJ officials who back Ozawa did likewise.