Shinshinto leader Ichiro Ozawa said Jan. 20 that members of the largest opposition party should unite to enable the party to deprive the ruling Liberal Democratic Party of power.”Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto and his administration are not capable of carrying out reforms despite repeated pledges,” Ozawa told a general meeting of Shinshinto lawmakers just before the start of the 1997 ordinary Diet session. “We should prepare to take power and promote reforms by our own hands.However, it is becoming increasingly evident that Shinshinto faces great difficulty in healing its internal schisms. In December, a number of members bolted — decreasing the number of seats Shinshinto holds in the 500-seat Lower House to 142 — and formed the Taiyo Party behind former Prime Minister Tsutomu Hata.Earlier in the day, Shinshinto formally announced its opposition both to the supplementary budget plan for fiscal 1996 and the package of budget plans for fiscal 1997. The two budget plans, both of which were compiled late last month by the LDP with cooperation form the Social Democratic Party and New Party Sakigake, are the most important items on the agenda of the ordinary Diet session. “The budget plans are to impose a heavier financial burden on the public,” said Kansei Nakano, chairman of Shinshinto’s Diet affairs steering committee. “We will demand that both budget plans be revised.”If the budget package for fiscal 1997 is passed, the public’s financial burden would increase by 9 trillion yen from the current fiscal year in the form of taxes and social security premiums.

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