The ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s two non-Cabinet allies threatened Sept. 17 to end the tripartite alliance unless Koko Sato resigns as head of the Management and Coordination Agency.
The Social Democratic Party and New Party Sakigake officially demanded the resignation of Sato, who was given the ministerial post Sept. 11 in the reshuffled Cabinet of Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, despite his bribery conviction in connection with the Lockheed scandal of the 1970s.
The two parties said that the public is questioning the principles of Hashimoto’s reform-advocating government because of the appointment, which runs counter to political reform, a prerequisite for administrative reform.
SDP Secretary General Shigeru Ito told reporters that the party will end its alliance with the LDP if its request is not met. “I hope the LDP will reply in a clear way, because our request is clear,” Ito said. “It will be one or the other; either we leave or he quits.”
Sakigake is taking the same stance as the SDP, according to the party’s chief secretary, Hiroyuki Sonoda. The two parties submitted a joint document to LDP Secretary General Koichi Kato during a meeting of key members from the three parties.
Kato tried in vain to mollify the two parties, claiming Sato is now repentant of his role in the Lockheed scandal, according to participants. Ito told Kato that unless the problem is resolved, the SDP would not protect the Hashimoto government from a possible no-confidence motion from the opposition camp.
The meeting was suspended without reaching a conclusion. Later in the day, LDP party executives discussed the matter but also failed to find a solution. Although the LDP executives agreed the situation is very serious, some party sources said momentum for Sato’s ouster is building to keep the SDP and Sakigake in the fold.
In the evening, senior officials of an LDP factional group to which Sato belongs gathered at a Tokyo hotel. They included former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, who last week strongly urged Hashimoto to give Sato a Cabinet position. While the LDP has regained a simple majority in the 500-seat Lower House, it is still short of a majority in the 252-seat Upper House and has to depend on help from the SDP and Sakigake.