Latest DPJ defectors to join Nagoya force

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

Two more Diet members bolted Friday from the Democratic Party of Japan and announced they were joining Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura’s local Genzei Nippon (Tax Reduction Japan) group with the aim of taking it national and vying for seats in the next Lower House election.

Koki Kobayashi, a proportional representative from Tokyo, and Toshiaki Koizumi, a Lower House member from the Ibaraki No. 3 district, said they will join up with Kawamura because he shares their philosophy of lowering taxes.

Both Kobayashi and Koizumi, who opposed increasing the consumption tax, had reportedly been in discussions with Kawamura since last week after voting for a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.

They will join Diet member Yuko Sato, also a defector from the DPJ, as Genzei Nippon’s Diet representatives.

A total of five Diet members are needed to form a national party, so Kawamura’s group still needs two more.

Kawamura originally planned to form a national party with Aichi Gov. Hideaki Omura and tie up with Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto and his Osaka Ishin no Kai (One Osaka) supporters for the next Lower House election.

That plan appears to have been abandoned after long simmering tensions between Omura and Kawamura surfaced this week.

Following Hashimoto’s moves to make his group a national party, Kawamura announced earlier this month he would seek official party status to expand its regional base and to ensure his supporters could be allotted seats for proportional representation.

He made the decision following months of tension with Omura, with whom he jointly campaigned in the 2011 races for governor and mayor.

Omura’s local group, which translates as the Aichi is Top of Japan Party,’ has only four seats in the prefectural assembly, as opposed to the 13 seats held by Kawamura’s group. The mayor and governor thus decided to form a bloc in the prefectural assembly and are now its third-largest group, after the LDP and DPJ.

But when Omura also recently announced he was forming a new organization that would also aim to become a national political party and field candidates primarily from central Japan, Kawamura did not take the news well.

“I was never consulted, so it’s over. As there’s no trust, there will be no tieup,” Kawamura told reporters Aug. 14.

For his part, Omura said that “Kawamura is lacking certain qualities as a politician. When it comes time to fight, I’ll will do so stubbornly.”

The problem between the two leaders was not unexpected. For months the two had been at odds over the central’s government’s efforts to raise the consumption tax, a move Kawamura and his supporters opposed but Omura and his followers basically support.

Although Osaka Ishin no Kai has not yet declared whether it would align itself with either Kawamura or Omura, there are fundamental policy differences between Hashimoto and Kawamura over the structure of the tax.