Noda looking to hold Upper House vote on Japan’s sales tax bill Friday

JIJI

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has instructed the executive of his ruling Democratic Party of Japan to arrange an Upper House vote on the sales tax bill Friday, in a concession to the opposition’s demands, according to informed sources.

Given the number of tax hike opponents among its own rank and file, the DPJ until now has been reluctant to put the unpopular legislation — which has already cleared the Lower House — to the test this early. Its executive initially proposed an Aug. 20 target date to the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party.

But Noda has apparently realized that unless he compromises with the LDP, which is insisting that the vote take place Wednesday and is threatening to submit a censure motion against his Cabinet to the opposition-controlled upper chamber, the bill’s passage would be put in jeopardy, the sources said.

DPJ Diet affairs chief Koriki Jojima sounded out his LDP counterpart, Fumio Kishida, on Friday about voting on the legislation, and also asked for support to enact a stalled bill that would allow the government to issue deficit-covering bonds for the current fiscal year.

But the two failed to agree on a date, as the LDP is opposed to the idea of voting on both bills at the same time, the sources said.

Meanwhile, New Komeito, the second-largest opposition party, has urged caution over any censure or no-confidence motions prior to the legislation’s passage, out of concern that such a move could destroy a trilateral tax hike agreement reached with the DPJ and LDP, the sources said.

In a separate development, seven other opposition parties agreed Friday to submit a no-confidence motion against Noda’s Cabinet as early as Tuesday, when an Upper House committee is scheduled to end its deliberations on the tax hike bill, with the aim of blocking its enactment.

They include Kokumin no Seikatsu ga Daiitchi (People’s Life First), the group formed last month by former DPJ President Ichiro Ozawa and his followers, who quit the ruling party in protest over Noda’s plan to double the consumption tax by 2015.

But the prospects of achieving their goal appear dim. In order to pass, the motion would have to be approved by all opposition lawmakers, including from the LDP and New Komeito, as well as independents and at least 15 DPJ members.

While Ozawa is expected to call on former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and other DPJ lawmakers opposed to the tax hike to support the move, the LDP and New Komeito have no intention of voting in favor of any motion aimed at blocking the sales tax bill.