Koki Kobayashi and three other rebels from the Liberal Democratic Party formed a new party Sunday, with Yasuo Tanaka, the outspoken governor of Nagano Prefecture, taking the top position.
The five-member party, named Nippon (Japan), is the second to be formed by dissident LDP members since the House of Representatives was dissolved two weeks ago after postal privatization was voted down.
“We the members of Nippon have gathered here with ambitions to save Japan, protect the people and change Kasumigaseki (the central bureaucratic district in Tokyo),” Tanaka told reporters at a news conference in a Tokyo hotel.
“We expect many of those engaged in national politics and others hoping for Japan’s reform to come together with us and create a society in which people can have dreams for the future,” he said.
With only four Diet members, Nippon falls one short of being considered a political party under the Public Offices Election Law. As a result, its candidates won’t be able to run in single-seat districts and proportional representation blocks at the same time. Each will have to be in one category or the other.
Tanaka said his party will cooperate with anyone or any party that agrees with Nippon’s principles.
In addition to Tanaka and Kobayashi, who was named the deputy leader of Nippon, the new party groups former Lower House members Makoto Taki and Takashi Aoyama of the LDP, who voted against the postal bills, and Hiroyuki Arai, a House of Councilors member who quit the LDP on Friday in rebellion against the postal bills.
Kobayashi and two other members had been expected to join up with Shizuka Kamei, the former leader of their LDP faction who on Wednesday formed the other new party, Kokumin Shinto (People’s New Party).
Kobayashi said he decided to form the party because he sympathized with Tanaka’s idea of changing Japan, criticizing Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s reform drive as “shallow, harmful to the people and dangerous.”
Because of his rebellion against Koizumi, Kobayashi would have had to run in his Tokyo No. 10 district as an independent if he hadn’t formed the new party.
The LDP meanwhile has put up Environment Minister Yuriko Koike to run in that district, which covers Toshima Ward and part of Nerima Ward.
Tanaka, who has never before joined a political party, said he accepted the top position in Nippon out of a strong desire to change the central administrative and political powers through the new party as well as from his base in Nagano.
To this end, Tanaka said he will remain as governor while serving as Nippon’s leader and will not run in the upcoming Lower House election.
On postal privatization, Tanaka said the Koizumi administration has never explained its future, expressing concern that privatized postal financial entities could be taken over by foreign capital, as was the case with the Long-Term Credit Bank of Japan, now Shinsei Bank.
Tanaka was chosen as a shadow Cabinet member of the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan in the 2003 general election and has worked closely with the DPJ.
“I respect (DPJ deputy leader) Ichiro Ozawa as a politician,” Tanaka said. “But this is not a matter of making a straight choice (between the DPJ and the new party). We just want to change Japan together with the people by soliciting like-minded people and broadly appealing to the public.”
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