Former Democratic Party of Japan chief Ichiro Ozawa and 49 other DPJ lawmakers on Monday bolted from the DPJ, which Mr. Ozawa had helped come to power by leading it to a victory in August 2009 Lower House election.
The 50 lawmakers — 38 Lower House members and 12 Upper House members — oppose the bills for the so-called unified reform of the tax and social security system, the pillar of which is a bill to raise the consumption tax rate from the current 5 percent to 8 percent from April 2014 and to 10 percent from October 2015. Mr. Ozawa and his comrades are expected to form a new party.
The tax-raise plan in the midst of long deflation carries the danger of wrecking the economy and thus decreasing total tax revenues. The bills before the Diet are also weak in reforming the social security system itself.
If the lawmakers who bolted from the DPJ want to form a meaningful political group, they should refrain from just shouting slogans, and present a concrete policy program that will convince people that the new party offers a realistic alternative to Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s policies. Otherwise, people will regard their moves as another power game.
Mr. Ozawa’s departure from the DPJ was inevitable as he opposed the bills on which Mr. Noda, head of the DPJ, had staked his political life. If Mr. Ozawa forms a new party, the composition of Diet committees will change, causing a certain degree of difficulty for Mr. Noda. But Mr. Ozawa’s prospects are not good.
Although it was said that about 100 DPJ lawmakers were close to him and that 57 DPJ Lower House members voted against the bill to raise the consumption tax rate on June 26, the number of DPJ lawmakers who actually left the party, together with Mr. Ozawa, was fewer than expected.
Even if the Kizuna Party, composed of nine lawmakers who had earlier left the DPJ, and Shinto Daichi, a five-member party close to Mr. Ozawa, act together with Mr. Ozawa’s new party, these three parties’ combined strength in the Lower House is not enough to submit a no-confidence motion against Mr. Noda.
As far as the unified tax and social security reform bills are concerned, Mr. Noda can expect cooperation from the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito. In addition, a Kyodo News poll shows that only 15.9 percent of those surveyed said that they put their hopes in Mr. Ozawa’s new party.
Therefore, it is all the more important for Mr. Ozawa to present clear policy goals and clear steps to achieve them. At the very least, he must present steps on how to eliminate government waste, how to dismantle entrenched bureaucratic interests and how to build a sustainable social security system while ensuring that the needy in society get assistance without fail.
Mr. Ozawa should just stop shouting “People’s lives come first”; instead, he should present concrete ways to realize that.
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