Staff writer In an effort to turn itself from a “well-mannered” party into an “aggressive” force, the Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition party, is beginning to square up to the ruling coalition. “We used to work hard to provide counterproposals (to the ruling alliance) because we thought that was the responsibility of the opposition,” a senior DPJ member said recently. “But now we have reached the conclusion that we should be more aggressive and criticize the ruling parties, because that is also our job.” The metamorphosis first emerged when the DPJ, in a united move with other opposition parties, boycotted all Diet deliberations from late last week through early this week to delay the ruling camp’s attempt to pass pension reform bills. “Our firm attitude did the trick,” said DPJ President Yukio Hatoyama on Wednesday, referring to the fact that the boycott forced the ruling coalition to accept more deliberations and “another vote” on the bills at a Lower House committee, although the ruling alliance insists that the procedure is merely a confirmation of the vote conducted on Friday. Hatoyama went on to say that the DPJ intends to attack the coalition again in an attempt to have the Lower House dissolved during the current Diet session. Using hard-nosed tactics may be the only choice left for the DPJ, whose efforts to affect policy seem to have been pretty much in vain in the face of the giant tripartite ruling coalition launched in October, which outnumbers the opposition camp in both chambers of the Diet. But another reason may be behind the DPJ’s unyielding stance appears to be the falling approval rating of Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi’s Cabinet in recent opinion polls. The DPJ’s joint struggle with the other opposition parties — the Social Democratic Party and the Japanese Communist Party — is likely to continue in the near future. On Wednesday, the opposition camp, in a united front, turned down a request by the ruling coalition to begin deliberating the 1999 second extra budget plan today. The resistance of the opposition, which insists that discussion of the budget will not start until Dec. 6, when three key Cabinet ministers return from the WTO summit in Seattle, will delay the Diet’s schedule not only for the budget bills but also in other contentious legislation — and could cause another rift within the ruling coalition. The delay in handling the budget and pension bills would make it difficult for the ruling camp to pass legislation to reduce the number of seats in the Lower House during the current Diet session, which runs through December 15. If that happens, the Liberal Party, a member of the coalition that strongly advocates a reduction in the number of Diet seats, is likely to start making more noises about breaking away from the coalition.Senior Liberal Party lawmakers say the party will not tolerate having the matter tucked away and forgotten and suggest that the ongoing Diet session be extended for one or two weeks if necessary. The DPJ maintains that it will simply reject any appeal for an extended session, as soon as it is asked.

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