Former Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama and Katsuhiko Yokomitsu, both Social Democratic Party members in the Lower House, did not oppose a government-proposed bill to empower the government to continue leasing, even forcibly, land for U.S. military facilities in Okinawa Prefecture, despite the party’s decision to vote against it.

Murayama left the chamber hall just before the bill was put to a vote, and said he had no choice but to skip the voting. “Although the bill is a bad one, I also understand through my experience of serving as prime minister that the government should never allow the conditions in which the state loses legal basis related to the land lease,” he told reporters. “It was my first time during my (21-year) life as a legislator that I abstained from voting,” he added.

SDP leader Takako Doi said it was regrettable the two did not vote against the bill. “But I can understand the feelings of Murayama. Meanwhile, I should ask Yokomitsu why he voted for it, because he never mentioned his support for the bill during our party’s repeated meetings to talk about the issue,” she said.

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