Liberal Democratic Party heavyweight Shizuka Kamei held talks Tuesday about forming a new party with several lawmakers who lost LDP backing for the Sept. 11 general election by opposing postal privatization.
Despite lingering reluctance by some, Kamei has proposed the move after offering to step down Monday as head of his LDP faction. His opposition to the postal bills has left the faction’s members in a bind before the House of Representatives election.
Kamei, a former LDP policy chief who has spearheaded opposition to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s postal privatization, said he expects some 30 members to line up with the new party.
It is unknown, however, what the final number will be. Some LDP opponents of the postal bills have said they would prefer to run as independents.
Kamei met in the evening at a Tokyo hotel with Tamisuke Watanuki, who headed the LDP opponents to postal reform, and other postal opponents to discuss the possible new party.
“We will set up a new party. I hope to have an idea (Wednesday),” Kamei said. “It will be open to anyone who wants to participate. We will have at least 30 members.”
Hisaoki Kamei, a former Lower House member, and House of Councilors member Kensei Hasegawa were also at the meeting.
However, former Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Takeo Hiranuma and former senior Cabinet Office vice minister Akihiko Kumashiro told a new conference in Okayama they will not participate in Kamei’s party because their supporters they run as independents.
Another dissident, Koki Kobayashi, told reporters he will consider joining the planned party. The LDP has tapped Environment Minister Yuriko Koike to run against Kobayashi in his Tokyo district.
The dissident lawmakers had initially given up the idea of forming a new party soon after Koizumi, the LDP president, dissolved the lower chamber on Aug. 8, but Kamei bandied the idea around again Friday, saying independent candidates would face “various limits in campaigning.”
These include being unable to appear in TV spots on NHK to present their views.
Kamei believes a new party might be able to at least garner seats through the proportional representation portion of the ballot, according to sources close to him.
The postal privatization bills, the centerpiece of Koizumi’s reform drive, narrowly cleared the Lower House but were voted down by the House of Councilors on Aug. 8, prompting Koizumi to dissolve the lower chamber and call a snap election.
The LDP then decided to ban the 37 Lower House members in the LDP who voted against the bills from running on the party’s ticket and instead began fielding other candidates for those districts.
After offering his resignation Monday to acting faction leader Bunmei Ibuki, Kamei told reporters he was holding himself accountable for the high election hurdles his faction colleagues face for being linked to him.
Some faction members have criticized Kamei for predicting that Koizumi would not dissolve the Lower House.
Twelve faction members, including Kamei, are among the 37 LDP members who voted against the bills in early July.
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