Rebuffed, Watanabe set to quit LDP


With all his policy proposals effectively snubbed by Prime Minister Taro Aso, Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Yoshimi Watanabe’s exit from the ruling party became almost certain Friday.

Watanabe said that in the morning he tried to hand an open letter to Aso that questioned him about civil servant reform. But Aso’s secretary refused to accept it and instead told Watanabe to raise the question in the Diet.

Asked what he plans to do next, the former administrative reform minister said the matter of his exit “has come to a crucial point.”

“Abolishing ‘amakudari’ and promoting civil servant reforms are the themes that I have been working on with all my effort and determination,” he said, referring to the practice of retiring top bureaucrats landing lucrative, and often allegedly corrupt, jobs in industries they once oversaw. “If (Aso’s policy) is fundamentally different or goes backward, it can be a cue for me” to leave the LDP, he said.

On Monday, Watanabe disclosed his seven policy proposals and said he would leave the LDP unless the proposals were not seriously and promptly considered.

Watanabe’s likely exit from the LDP could cause a stir among the party’s ranks that support his position. His opponents within the LDP have labeled his move a staged play to draw Aso’s refusal and justify his exit.

Watanabe’s proposals made Monday include calling an early general election, canceling the ¥2 trillion cash handout program and promoting civil servant reform.

Having observed Aso’s response Thursday at the Lower House Budget Committee, Watanabe said he wanted to confirm two things with Aso.

One is whether Aso will completely ban the “watari” practice in which ministries can arrange new jobs multiple times at government-related corporations for retiring bureaucrats, which is often criticized as a waste of taxpayer money. In many cases, the ex-bureaucrats get vast retirement packages each time they change jobs.

The other is whether Aso plans to scrap a government ordinance that grants the prime minister authority to approve bureaucrats’ job outplacement and also allows multiple job outplacements on rare exceptions.