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Hatoyama won’t seek re-election

Former prime minister, rejecting Noda's stance, says he's quitting politics

by Masami Ito

Staff Writer

Former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama officially announced Wednesday he will not run in the Dec. 16 Lower House election and instead will retire from politics.

Hatoyama, 65, who has strongly opposed Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s key initiatives, including the consumption tax hike and participating in the free-trade Trans-Pacific Partnership, refused to sign the Democratic Party of Japan’s mandatory pledge to march in lockstep to the party’s orders and is leaving the DPJ.

The former prime minister had been one of the core DPJ members trying to block Noda and his leadership from pursuing the contentious goals. Many of his fellow dissenters, including Ichiro Ozawa, departed the DPJ, but Hatoyama stayed to the end.

Hatoyama met with Noda in the afternoon and told him he was retiring as a lawmaker.

“I have decided not run in the upcoming general election. I will retire from the political world and would like to enjoy my retirement by engaging in various activities, including human resource development,” Noda quoted Hatoyama as saying.

After their 10-minute meeting, Noda revealed to reporters that he did not ask Hatoyama to reconsider. Noda added that neither the consumption tax nor the TPP came up.

“I think it was a carefully thought-out decision and I take (Hatoyama’s decision) seriously,” Noda said. Hatoyama “has been involved in expanding our party since its establishment and he was the one who stood at the forefront when we succeeded in winning government power. I thanked him for the many contributions he made.”

Hatoyama succeeded Ozawa as head of the party in May 2009 and became the first DPJ prime minister that September after the party knocked the Liberal Democratic Party off its throne in a historic election.

Although Hatoyama and the DPJ enjoyed overwhelming popularity in the beginning, he drew harsh criticism for promising and then failing to move the contentious Futenma military base out of Okinawa.

He was also involved in a political money scandal in which a former secretary was convicted.

The Hatoyama Cabinet started out with a robust support rate of more than 70 percent, but by the end of May the following year it had sunk to 19.1 percent, according to Kyodo polls.

Just nine months into his administration, Hatoyama was forced to step down. Faced with nationwide outrage over the confusion and disappointment he caused, Hatoyama said at the time he would not run for the Diet again, though he later changed his mind.

LDP President Shinzo Abe suggested that the DPJ was trying to woo voters and improve the party’s image by cutting Hatoyama loose.

“Politics is based on trust and I assume former Prime Minister Hatoyama’s decision was based on the fact that he lost trust,” Abe said. “At the same time, I think he was forced to resign . . . because the current ruling party wanted to improve its image.”

A political blue-blood, Hatoyama is the grandson of former Prime Minister Ichiro Hatoyama as well as the son of former Foreign Minister Iichiro Hatoyama.

Hatoyama served eight terms as a Lower House lawmaker. He started his career in the LDP.

He fled the LDP in 1993 and became one of the founding members of the DPJ.