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Jimi wants to be under LDP’s wing for Upper House election

Kyodo

Shozaburo Jimi, leader of the three-Diet-member Kokumin Shinto (People’s New Party), asked the ruling Liberal Democratic Party on Thursday to absorb his small opposition force apparently so he can run in this summer’s Upper House election on the LDP’s ticket.

LDP sources said their party’s election bureau chief, Takeo Kawamura, in a meeting, told Jimi, “We will consider (the overture) cautiously.”

Jimi once was an LDP member. He left the party after losing his House of Representatives seat in the 2005 general election, after opposing then-LDP Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s postal system privatization. But he returned to national politics by winning a House of Councilors proportional representation seat on Kokumin Shinto’s ticket in 2007 and assumed the party’s helm last April, replacing postal privatization arch foe Shizuka Kamei, who also used to be in the LDP.

Jimi served as minister in charge of postal reform when his party was a minor force in the Democratic Party of Japan-led ruling coalition that preceded the LDP’s return to power in the general election last December.

The two other Kokumin Shinto Diet lawmakers — Lower House member Takeshi Noma and Kazuyuki Hamada of the Upper House — will probably become independents even if the LDP absorbs the party, Kokumin Shinto sources said.

Kokumin Shinto’s looming disbandment follows Diet enactment of a law last April, under the DPJ government, to rethink the postal privatization. The small party now appears unlikely to secure support from a postmasters’ association in the coming Upper House poll.

The Public Offices Election Law bans a lawmaker who won a proportional representation seat from switching parties. Thus for Jimi to return to the LDP before the election, he has to give up his Diet seat or Kokumin Shinto has to merge with the LDP.