LDP chief pursues snap election at party rally

Tanigaki blasts DPJ as 'cheat' at annual convention but Keidanren, other members decry power game


Staff Writer

Liberal Democratic Party President Sadakazu Tanigaki pledged Sunday to force the ruling Democratic Party of Japan to dissolve the Lower House as early as possible so a snap election can be held to return the conservative party to power.

“It’ll be a final political battle this year. We’ll drive them into a Lower House snap election as soon as possible,” the opposition leader said at the LDP’s annual convention in Tokyo.

Tanigaki, whose term expires in September, is rallying his party now because if his dissolution gambit fails, he is unlikely to be re-elected. The Diet opens for business on Tuesday. “The LDP has to save Japan from national crisis,” he said, raising his voice.

Tanigaki called the DPJ “a cheat” because it is trying to hike taxes despite promising not to do so during its campaign for the historic 2009 general election that swept it into power.

One of the highlights of the 150-day Diet session will be the DPJ’s social security and tax reform plans, which Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has vowed to push through even at the risk of damaging his political career.

In early January, Noda’s government approved a draft plan to raise the 5 percent sales tax to 8 percent in April 2014 and to 10 percent in October 2015 to cover swelling social security costs.

The DPJ, which will need cooperation from the opposition, which controls the Upper House, officially asked its opponents Thursday to participate in talks on the grand reform plan before the bill is submitted to the Diet in March.

But the LDP and coalition partner New Komeito rejected the cross-party talks over the DPJ’s broken campaign pledge.

The LDP, ironically, agrees with the tax hike plan itself, and said in its 2010 election campaign that it should be doubled.

But the strident calls for a snap election are coming under fire from the nation’s top business lobby. Keidanren Chairman Hiromasa Yonekura, a guest speaker at the convention, asked the LDP to join the discussions on social security and tax reform.

“Financial reconstruction and social security reform are urgent matters. I hope the LDP will go forward with policies based on the perspective of the public and national interests,” Yonekura said, referring to the bickering state of political disarray Japan has been stuck in since the March 11 disasters.

Some LDP members echoed that view. Former policy chief Shigeru Ishiba said on a program aired by Tokyo Broadcasting System Inc. on Wednesday that they “shouldn’t grudge providing support for the country.”

Meanwhile, Yoshiaki Suda, the mayor of disaster-hit Onagawa, Miyagi Prefecture, said some of the party’s tactics against the DPJ are unsatisfactory.

Suda said it was hard for people in the town, which was devastated by the quake and tsunami, to understand why the LDP had to submit a no-confidence motion in June against then Prime Minister Naoto Kan, when the central government should have been working to restore essential services to the Tohoku region.