OTSU, SHIGA PREFECTURE – The shotgun political marriage between Shiga Gov. Yukiko Kada and Diet veteran Ichiro Ozawa was formally annulled Friday night, with both sides promising to respect and work with each other where possible, and with Kada’s future in doubt.
Kada, Ozawa and Lower house lawmaker Yuko Mori held a press conference, in which it was announced that Kada’s group, whose Tomoko Abe is its only Diet member, will retain the name Nippon Mirai no To (Tomorrow Party of Japan). But it lacks the numbers to remain an official national political party, hence the state subsidy goes to Ozawa’s camp.
Fifteen one-time Nippon Mirai ranks, all Diet members, including Ozawa and Mori, will take over Nippon Mirai’s organizational infrastructure and rename itself as the new Seikatsu no To (Lifestyle Party).
Mori is currently the head of the party, but another leader will be chosen next month.
“Our way of doing things, and our family cultures, were different. On a daily basis, we realized we couldn’t have a happy life,” Kada said when asked the reason for the breakup with Ozawa only a month after merging before the Dec. 16 Lower House election, in which her party took a thrashing.
Ozawa said little during the briefing, deferring to Mori on most questions. But he said Kada’s political direction was basically the same as his and, on issues like nuclear power, the consumption tax, child care and empowering women and younger workers, he wanted to continue to work with Kada’s group.
“I want to work to achieve the political goals of both parties,” Ozawa said.
Relations between Mori and Kada have been particularly chilly over the past couple of days. Mori said her understanding of why the party was splitting up had less to do with differences with “family cultures,” as Kada claimed, and more to do with differences between Kada’s role as Shiga governor and the leadership demands of a Diet party.
“My understanding was that Kada would manage the prefectural government and exercise her authority there, and provide the party with a local perspective. The Diet is a different system,” said Mori.
The two leaders did issue a joint statement, in which they warned of the rightward drift of politics under the new administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose Liberal Democratic Party and ally New Komeito won a landslide in the December poll. The two also cautioned against the new administration’s apparent move to hurry the restart of the nation’s nuclear reactors and to build new ones.
“Although we are now two political groups, we will work together with like-minded people to develop a society that graduates from nuclear (power), freezes the raise in the consumption tax, and includes children and women, and younger people,” the joint statement said.
“We’ll continue our fight together against the extreme rightward drift and dangerous trends of the LDP-New Komeito government, which has a huge number of Diet seats. (The drift includes) an early restart of nuclear reactors, and taking steps toward building new ones,” the declaration added.
What happens next to Kada is uncertain, but the political divorce will hit her hard financially. With only one Diet member, Nippon Mirai is currently not eligible to receive national political party funding.
Prior to the Ozawa breakup, Nippon Mirai had been eligible for ¥865 million in funding next year. The vast majority of that money will now go to Mori and Ozawa’s new party.
Asked about a possible run for an Upper House seat next July, Kada said she was not thinking about it, noting the people of Shiga would not approve of her candidacy. Kada has greatly angered both her local supporters and the LDP-dominated prefectural assembly with her foray into national politics, and may face a recall vote.
And while she has until Jan. 1 to find a possible party to merge with in order to regain the minimum number of five Diet seats necessary for state funding, that will prove difficult. Kada and Abe sounded out Midori no Kaze (Green Wind) about a merger to meet the minimum five Diet member requirement for funding. Midori no Kaze has four Diet members and shares Kada’s basic goal of ending Japan’s reliance on nuclear power. But differences between the two parties scuttled merger talks.
Still, Kada remained defiant Friday.
“We can’t get money, but we have kept the name of the party and its mission, and we’ll reset,” she said.