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The government’s annual budget for fiscal 1999 hasn’t been compiled yet, but Takenori Kanzaki, leader of New Komeito, is already against it.

In what appears to be a ploy to divide politicians vacillating between joining the opposition camp or a loose coalition that includes the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, Kanzaki said Tuesday that his party would endorse the third supplementary budget but oppose the annual budget for 1999.

The remarks were immediately criticized by Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiromu Nonaka. “Political parties that are thinking seriously about this nation and its people should determine whether to approve or oppose a budget by making a thorough review of it,” Nonaka said, “after it is compiled.”

Kanzaki’s remarks on the budget, which is to be submitted at the extraordinary Diet session scheduled to convene Friday, are seen as a message that New Komeito intends to side with the opposition in the upcoming ordinary Diet session.

Nonaka has been hoping to lure New Komeito closer to the LDP and its new partner, the Liberal Party, to overcome the ruling party’s minority standing in the Upper House.

He said he is having trouble understanding why Kanzaki would make such a remark at this stage. “If he has said that the party will endorse the supplementary budget but oppose the budget for the next fiscal year, then I’ll have to have doubts about that,” he said, adding that he has not confirmed Kanzaki’s remarks.

New Komeito, the second-largest opposition party, has won the LDP’s support for a scheme to distribute 700 billion yen in shopping coupons, an item that will be financed in the upcoming extra budget. New Komeito’s leaders, however, have ruled out the possibility of a full-scale alliance with the ruling party.

Ichiro Ozawa, leader of the Liberal Party, agreed with Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi last week to cooperate with the LDP in compiling the fiscal 1999 budget, with an eye toward forming a coalition in time for the next regular Diet session.

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