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LDP spurns merger plea by tiny Kokumin Shinto

by Ayako Mie

Staff Writer

The Liberal Democratic Party has rejected a proposal by Kokumin Shinto (People’s New Party) to merge and instead is demanding that the three-man opposition force disband and the lawmakers be considered individually for membership in the ruling party.

LDP Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba said Friday that it wouldn’t be reasonable for Kokumin Shinto President Shozaburo Jimi to return to the LDP because he got his proportional representation seat in the Upper House on the back of Kokumin Shinto, which was a junior coalition partner of LDP rival Democratic Party of Japan.

“Whether he will join us or not, it is only logical that he disband the party first,” Ishiba said.

Jimi asked the LDP on Thursday to absorb his party and reinstate him as an LDP member before the July Upper House poll.

On Friday, Jimi maintained that Kokumin Shinto won’t disband unless the LDP absorbs it.

Jimi left the LDP after his loss in the 2005 Lower House election after voting against Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s postal privatization drive. The Diet passed a law last April to reconsider the postal privatization.

Under the Public Offices Election Law, a lawmaker who won a proportional representation seat will be booted from the Diet if the party disbands and the person tries to join another party. If Kokumin Shinto gives in to the LDP demand and dissolves, Jimi will lose his seat.

“The ball is in the LDP’s court,” Jimi said. The other two Kokumin Shinto lawmakers, one in each chamber, said they also still hope to join the ruling camp.