Kokumin Shinto, DPJ try to muddle through as coalition takes new form

by Masami Ito

Staff Writer

The alliance between the Democratic Party of Japan and the reshaped Kokumin Shinto (People’s New Party) got off to a shaky start Friday as both parties tried to move on after dealing with internal conflict created by the consumption tax bill.

Kokumin Shinto officially appointed Shozaburo Jimi, state minister in charge of financial and postal issues, as its leader Friday after firing Shizuka Kamei for opposing Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s tax hike and declaring the party would exit the coalition.

Kamei later Friday announced departure from the party.

Jimi and Noda met and reconfirmed the alliance later Friday.

“It is heartrending, but I fully realize the heavy weight of responsibility that I bear to fulfill my job as a Cabinet minister,” Jimi said.

Kokumin Shinto is a small party with only eight lawmakers, none of whom were happy with the way things turned out. Jimi and five other members firmly believed that maintaining the coalition with the DPJ was necessary, while Shizuka Kamei and ex-policy chief Akiko Kamei, who is unrelated and left the party with the other Kamei, were adamant about leaving to show their opposition to the tax hike.

The decision to appoint Jimi the new chief was made at a meeting Thursday night. The official papers were accepted Friday morning by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s Election Administration Commission.

However, the two Kameis said the decision is invalid.

“What is happening at the party’s headquarters is unfortunately a coup d’etat,” Akiko Kamei told reporters Thursday evening. “There is nothing in the party’s regulations that mentions the removal of the leader and it cannot be approved.”

Meanwhile, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura announced Friday morning that replacements have been found for the four Ichiro Ozawa followers who stepped down as vice ministers to protest the tax hike bill.

The newly appointed ministers are Atsushi Oshima, Miho Takai, Chinami Nishimura and Ken Kagaya.