Saying “the time is not ripe,” Liberal Democratic Party chief Sadakazu Tanigaki rejected an overture by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda for talks earlier this month to secure help from the main opposition party to pass a law raising the sales tax, political sources said Wednesday.
Noda, who heads the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, has said he is staking his “political life” on the tax hike plan, and was apparently aiming to break the deadlock in the opposition-controlled House of Councilors, the sources said.
The prime minister has vowed to restore Japan’s fiscal health by eventually doubling the current 5 percent consumption tax. It is believed he and Tanigaki met secretly in February.
According to the sources, the prime minister’s office asked LDP Vice President Tadamori Oshima over the Golden Week holidays from late April to early May to arrange talks between the two party leaders.
But LDP executives decided against talks, mindful that former DPJ leader Ichiro Ozawa, an opponent of the tax hike, may regain power within the ruling party following his acquittal on April 26 on charges he falsified financial information at his political funds body, the sources said.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said at a press conference Wednesday the story that Noda reached out to Tanigaki is “unfounded.”
“In general, politicians should not be prevented from holding talks on important matters,” he added.
Noda and Tanigaki were unable to reach an agreement at secret talks in February because dissolving the House of Representatives was the price for the LDP’s cooperation on the tax hike bill, other sources said.
Deputy Prime Minister Katsuya Okada reportedly called on executives of the LDP and its ally, New Komeito, to cooperate on passage of the bill after Golden Week. DPJ Secretary General Azuma Koshiishi and his LDP counterpart, Nobuteru Ishihara, are believed to have met on Monday.