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The Liberal Democratic Party’s move to readmit into its fold 11 Lower House members who were kicked out of the party for opposing postal service privatization bills is widely regarded as an act of political expediency. It is designed to use the political resources of these Diet members, who have strong local support bases, during the Upper House election campaign in the summer of 2007.

The 11 Diet members must be happy to return to their old home and their supporters will be relieved to see the politicians from their electoral districts rejoin the biggest party. But a majority of the public will likely regard both the LDP and these politicians as being unprincipled. They were among 37 LDP politicians who voted against the privatization bills and were ousted from the party before the 2005 general elections. They became independents after their re-election. But they voted for the bills when they were resubmitted to the Diet session after the elections. By voting this way, they apparently hoped to be readmitted to the party some day.

Mr. Takeo Hiranuma, former economy and trade minister, who was a rebel, also became an independent after being re-elected. But he proved himself to be a person of principle. He voted against the resubmitted bills. On Monday, Mr. Hiranuma submitted a request to the LDP asking for readmission like the 11 other Diet members. But he refused to submit a loyalty vow as demanded by LDP Secretary General Hidenao Nakagawa while the 11 others submitted it. They expressed regret for their “antiparty activity” and pledged their adherence to the party policy agenda, among other things.

In the eyes of the public, however, there is too great a gap between what happened in the summer of 2005 and the LDP’s current move. When the postal service privatization bills were voted down in the Upper House, then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi dissolved the Lower House and ousted the rebels. He turned postal privatization into virtually the sole issue in the elections and sent “assassin” candidates where the rebels were running. Readmission of rebels would be tantamount to acknowledging that the LDP’s former leader was wrong.

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