In a move seen by many as a stepping stone toward the formation of a new opposition party, the Reform Council was launched on August 25 by 87 Diet members from four opposition parties.

The launch reinforces the lawmakers’ efforts to rival the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. Holding its first session at a Diet room, the group said that 87 have applied for membership. Of the total, 53 lawmakers attended the session while the others sent secretaries as deputies.

By party, the council is made up of 37 members from the Democratic Party of Japan, 32 from Shinshinto, 13 from the Taiyo Party, four from the Democratic Reform Party and one independent. It is known in Japanese as Kaikaku Kaigi.

“Although the government is conducting administrative and financial reforms, it is doubtful that they are carrying out true reforms,” former Justice Minister Megumu Sato from Shinshinto told the participants. “We would like to study and discuss together to implement real reforms.”

Key members include Yukio Hatoyama and Naoto Kan, coleaders of the DPJ; former Prime Minister Tsutomu Hata, leader of the Taiyo Party; and Michihiko Kano, a Shinshinto lawmaker and former chief of the Management and Coordination Agency. Former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa declined to join the council despite strong requests from key members.

Some members of the council, such as Yukio Hatoyama, originally aimed to turn the council into a united political group or party. However, Hatoyama’s remarks have stirred opposition within his party and other parties, and the aim of the council has become vague due to the serious differences of opinion among the parties involved. It remains to be seen if the council can become a united opposition force strong enough to counter the LDP. The council aims to train members to help promote reforms and create a society to meet public expectations, according to the group. It will hold meetings regularly and discuss ideas and policy matters.

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