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Irked by Watanabe's backing of secrets law, ex-secretary-general takes 13 members with him

Your Party splinters as Eda bolts

by Ayako Mie

Staff Writer

Lower House lawmaker Kenji Eda on Monday deserted Your Party, which he helped form four years ago, and took more than a third of the opposition group’s ranks with him to launch a new party.

The breakup of Your Party underscored the worsening turmoil in the opposition camp, which is being trampled by the ruling coalition led by the Liberal Democratic Party.

“We will go back to the origin of Your Party,” said Eda, referring to the group’s initial call for political realignment as a brand new third force. “The mission of the opposition camp is not to fight each other but to iron out differences over principles to offer an alternative that can counter the LDP.”

Eda tendered his resignation along with 13 other Your Party members in both Diet chambers. Before their exit, the party roster listed 35 members.

Eda aims to set up a new party by year’s end with fellow defectors and Mito Kakizawa, who left Your Party in August.

Eda said Your Party leader Yoshimi Watanabe’s move to cozy up to LDP Prime Minister Shinzo Abe over the contentious state secrets law was the biggest reason for him to bolt.

Your Party, which shares a similar policy agenda as the LDP, including the desire to amend the pacifist Constitution, agreed on revisions to the state secrets bill and voted for it at the Lower House. But Eda and two other Your Party lawmakers refused to vote in defiance of the party.

Your Party itself did an about-face and walked away from the Upper House plenary vote that enacted the legislation Friday, prompting some in the party to question Watanabe’s thinking.

“Your Party is trying to be quasi-LDP, with Watanabe’s having closed-door meetings with Abe to agree with the ruling camp over the state secrets law,” said Eda. “Your Party is a canary that forgot how to sing. I thought there is no future in this party.”

Seeking a broad political change, Eda first plans to jointly form a new study group Tuesday with like-minded lawmakers from the Democratic Party of Japan, Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and Your Party.

Your Party itself Tuesday will discuss how to handle Monday’s resignations, with an eye toward formally expelling Eda instead of accepting his resignation.

Eda’s new party, if formed this month as planned, would be eligible for government subsidies. Under the political party assistance law, a political group that has more than five Diet lawmakers qualifies for state subsidies if it forms a formal political party by Jan. 1.

Watanabe said Sunday of Eda’s threatened move: “Almost all the parties formed in December eventually ceased to exist . . . because they are after the government money and do not have any principles.”

Eda was one of the five founders of the party and had been its co-leader until Watanabe sacked him as secretary-general in August after Eda formed a study group with DPJ ex-Secretary-General Goso Hosono and Nippon Ishin Secretary-General Yorihisa Matsuno.

Watanabe has preferred keeping Your Party independent and open to forming coalitions with other parties, while Eda sought to form a totally new party by joining hands with other opposition forces.