• Kyodo

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Lawmakers close to ruling party kingpin Ichiro Ozawa who also head local party chapters might resign in unison to put pressure on his rival, embattled Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

Among Democratic Party of Japan lawmakers loyal to former party head Ozawa, about five who head the party’s regional associations are planning to quit some time after the second round of local elections Sunday, they said, warning more local chapter heads may follow suit.

Their dissatisfaction with the party’s direction under Kan, who doubles as DPJ president, is behind their decision and sure to widen the rift in the party.

The lawmakers are especially unhappy with Kan’s plan to phase out key DPJ policies ranging from monthly child allowances to toll-free expressways to help fund post-March 11 reconstruction.

They plan to say they are quitting to take responsibility for a major setback in the first round of nationwide elections earlier this month, although it is unclear what they, or Ozawa for that matter, have to gain from the move.

People close to Ozawa also plan to call for a meeting of all DPJ members from both houses of the Diet early this week to urge the party’s No. 2, Katsuya Okada, and other executives to clarify their responsibility for the election debacle.

But the leadership is likely to reject the call before holding a meeting of secretaries general of the local associations on May 21 to review the results of a series of gubernatorial, mayoral and local assembly elections, hoping to wait until the dust settles.

“We suffered a major defeat in the nationwide elections because the idea of a grand coalition came out of the blue,” said one of the members who is considering resigning, blaming Kan’s lack of strategy in political maneuvering and his overture to the Liberal Democratic Party to join the Cabinet and aid in dealing with the 3/11 disaster. “Everything will be settled if the leader quits,” the member said.

One DPJ executive who is unimpressed with the move said local members and supporters do not want any more squabbles in the party and there are only a small number of rebels who want to oust Kan.