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Kokumin Shinto (People’s New Party) will cooperate with another new party in the Sept. 11 general election and oppose Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s postal privatization drive, leader Tamisuke Watanuki said.

The former Lower House speaker left Koizumi’s Liberal Democratic Party after the LDP refused to place him on its ticket because he was among 37 party members who voted against the government-sponsored postal privatization bills in the House of Representatives last month.

“(I) think New Party Nippon is targeting (seats in) constituencies in big cities,” Watanuki said in an interview about the other new force of like-minded LDP rebels.

He explained that to avoid the risk of both parties going under together, they would coordinate candidates so they do not run against each other.

“It appears we’ll give (New Party Nippon) priority in big cities . . . including Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka,” Watanuki said, adding the two parties will also work together in the proportional representation segment of the election.

He said he expects the two parties to join hands if and when their candidates emerge victorious in the election.

Kokumin Shinto was launched last week by Watanuki, three other LDP rebels and a member of the Democratic Party of Japan. New Party Nippon was formed Sunday by four other LDP rebels and reformist Nagano Gov. Yasuo Tanaka.

While many of the 37 LDP Lower House members who voted against the bills have opted to run as independents on Sept. 11, because of their relations with local supporters, Watanuki predicted his group and those candidates will eventually unite, because all the rebels have been told to leave the LDP.

Watanuki said his party has yet to decide how many candidates it will field. But he added that it “will not indiscriminately put up candidates in all constituencies, like the LDP.” The LDP is fielding rival candidates against the rebels in their districts.

“This election is being touted as a postal (privatization) election, but we don’t think it is about making a yes-no decision on the postal issue,” Watanuki said. “We think of it as an opportunity to ask people how they feel politics should be conducted and what should be done for the good of Japan and its people.”

Asked what he would do if his party holds the swing vote should the election result in no party winning a clear majority, Watanuki said he cannot comment on a hypothetical situation.

The LDP and DPJ “tout a two-party system, and yet (the party power balance) cannot be structured as such without (junior coalition partner) New Komeito in both houses of the Diet,” he said, noting this situation must be taken into account.

The prime minister has pledged to step down if the LDP-New Komeito coalition fails to retain its majority, but Watanuki said he does “not know yet” whether he would return to the LDP should Koizumi leave the helm.

Watanuki claimed he never meant to totally oppose postal privatization but objected to the way LDP executives tried to force passage of the reforms without properly taking into account the opinions of many LDP members.

At the same time, Watanuki said his group strongly questions whether the postal system reform is a vital goal for the country.

“(Koizumi) is trying to reform what must not be reformed,” he said. “We think reform is good, but that doesn’t mean everything new is good. If (reform) means destroying Japanese tradition and culture, it will end up destroying Japan.”

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