A rookie Lower House member resigned Thursday from the Democratic Party of Japan to join a small group led by Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura, weakening the ruling DPJ’s power in the Lower House by yet another vote.

Yuko Sato’s departure is another blow to Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s attempts to hold his struggling party together. Sixteen members loyal to suspended DPJ kingpin Ichiro Ozawa recently attempted to form a new parliamentary group in the Diet, while Ozawa’s close aide, Kenko Matsuki, resigned as parliamentary secretary of the farm ministry to protest Ozawa’s suspension from the party.

Sato, first elected to the Lower House in the 2009 poll, once served as Kawamura’s secretary. She will join Genzei Nihon (Tax Reduction Japan), established by Kawamura last April, but continue to represent the Nagoya No. 1 district in the lower chamber.

Kawamura, who met with Ozawa right after a mayoral election last month, is reportedly trying to develop closer ties with Ozawa’s faction.

“I wonder if the DPJ is trying to put its campaign pledges into action,” Sato told reporters after an hourlong meeting with Secretary General Katsuya Okada. “The current DPJ seems different from the DPJ when I was elected,” she said, hitting Kan’s apparent advocacy of tax hikes to pay for social welfare reforms.

According to Sato, Okada asked her to think it over but was told she wasn’t going to change her mind.

Okada said Thursday he didn’t accept Sato’s resignation and would discuss the matter with her again after the Nagoya Municipal Assembly’s election on March 13.

Sato said she hasn’t decided whether to support the DPJ’s budget-related bills. Kan’s team is struggling to scrounge up votes for in the Diet.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano decried Sato’s move.

“The government and the ruling party are trying to fulfill the responsibility by passing the budget and related bills,” Edano said at a regular news conference. “I don’t think her action will gain much (support) from the public.”

Budget debate looms

Kyodo News

Upper House deliberations on the fiscal 2011 budget plan will begin Friday as tension rises between Prime Minister Naoto Kan and opposition parties.

Ruling and opposition party lawmakers finally agreed Thursday over the start of House of Councilors deliberations on the planned budget, which totals a record ¥92.42 trillion.

Kan’s Democratic Party of Japan, which secured Lower House approval for the budget this week, had initially wanted to commence deliberations in a Thursday session of the Upper House Budget Committee. But as both camps fought over the format of the debate, the deadline could not be met.

The budget cleared the House of Representatives on Tuesday, enabling it to be enacted in time for the start of the next fiscal year on April 1.

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