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Former reconstruction minister Hirano says he will quit DPJ

Kyodo

Former reconstruction minister Tatsuo Hirano announced Saturday that he will leave the Democratic Party of Japan and run in the upcoming Upper House election as an independent, a local DPJ official said.

Hirano, 58, an Upper House member, expressed his readiness to quit the DPJ at a meeting with executives of the party’s branch in Iwate Prefecture, telling them: “I don’t think I can win the election running as a DPJ candidate. I have decided this without consulting anybody.”

DPJ President Banri Kaieda told reporters Saturday that he had not heard anything about Hirano leaving the largest opposition party, which was ousted from power in December’s general election. “Either I or DPJ Secretary General Goshi Hosono will talk to Hirano and decide what to do,” Kaieda said.

The DPJ currently holds 87 seats in the House of Councilors, including two lawmakers who have already submitted letters of resignation to the party. If Hirano also abandons the party, it will be left with just one Upper House seat more than the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which has 83.

Earlier, Hirano, who was elected from Iwate Prefecture, had indicated he was thinking of leaving the DPJ and running in the upcoming election as an independent in a phone conversation with a senior member of the party’s Iwate branch.

“I was surprised by his remarks. I don’t understand his intention,” the official said afterward.

In July 2011, the then-ruling DPJ put Hirano in charge of reconstructing areas of the Tohoku region that were leveled by the quake-tsunami disaster that March. Hirano, a former farm ministry bureaucrat, won his first term in the House of Councilors in 2001, according to his website.