Yasuo Tanaka, head of the brand-new New Party Nippon, is aiming his party at building public hope for a brighter future by working at the local and prefectural level to wrest power from central administrative and political authorities.
The five other members of the fledgling party “share the spirit of engaging in politics not for their own interests but for the people and for society,” Tanaka, the maverick governor of Nagano Prefecture, said in an interview.
As of Sunday, the party was fielding six candidates in the Sept. 11 general election with plans to add more by Tuesday, when official campaigning kicks off, Tanaka said.
The party was formed eight days ago by Liberal Democratic Party members who opposed Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s postal privatization bills. Koizumi dissolved the House of Representatives and called the general election when the bills were rejected by the House of Councilors on Aug. 8.
“That doesn’t mean that we oppose postal privatization,” Tanaka said, noting that Koki Kobayashi, another founding member of the party and a leading foe of Koizumi’s postal privatization drive, had advocated turning the old Postal Services Agency into a public corporation to make its services and operations efficient.
“It’s just that Koizumi’s postal privatization bills are a plan without substance and don’t include any measures to prevent” the assets of individuals kept in postal savings and postal life insurance from being exposed to foreign capital, he said.
Critics including Kobayashi have argued that if privatized, the postal financial service entities would be taken over by foreign capital and their massive assets — worth some 340 trillion yen — would be used to shore up purchases of U.S. Treasuries.
Another new party, Kokumin Shinto (People’s New Party), which was also formed by LDP foes of Koizumi’s privatization drive, has said it wants to coordinate with New Party Nippon so their respective candidates don’t run in the same areas.
But Tanaka denied the possibility for such cooperation.
“Unlike the LDP and (its junior coalition partner) New Komeito, we won’t do things that are done by electoral mutual-aid associations,” he said. “We’re putting up the kinds of candidates who can live up to people’s expectations and win as many votes as possible.”
However, his party has also been criticized for taking in an Upper House member from Kokumin Shinto last week. This enabled it to meet the requirement of having at least five Diet members to become a legally registered party and thus be allowed to field the same candidates in both single-seat districts and the proportional representation part of the ballot.
Tanaka has said he won’t run for the Lower House and has no problem wearing the two hats of Nagano governor and New Party Nippon chief.
While it has been speculated that Ichiro Ozawa, a heavyweight in the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan, may have pulled the strings in forming the two new parties with an eye toward postelection realignment, Tanaka said for the time being he is not thinking of alliances.
“An election is held so that each party plays fair and awaits the judgment of the people, and (we) can only think what to do (next) when it turns out that no party secured a majority on its own,” Tanaka said. “Plotting permutations and combinations (of parties and politicians) and booking seats (in a political power game) beforehand are the very things an electoral mutual-aid association would do.”
While his party has not released a manifesto, Tanaka said it will address such issues as ballooning public sector deficits and the rapid graying of society by placing greater importance on “quality over quantity” in steering administrative services and national and local budgets under a small government.
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