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Vote on Japan's reform bills could see dozens exit ruling party

Publication Date : 25-06-2012

 

At least 60 Democratic Party of Japan lawmakers are expected to rebel against the party's leadership when bills on integrated reform of the social security and tax systems go to a vote on Tuesday, The Yomiuri Shimbun has found.

Nearly 50 legislators of the ruling party have expressed their intention to vote against the bills during a House of Representatives session. Another 13 are considering abstaining from voting, refusing to attend the session or voting against them, it was learned Saturday.

Despite these dissenters, however, the bills are expected to pass the lower house as they will be supported by lawmakers of not only the People's New Party--the DPJ's junior partner--but also two main opposition parties, the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito.

The DPJ has 289 members in the House of Representatives. The legislators set to vote against the bills include 45 of about 80 lower house members of former DPJ president Ichiro Ozawa's intraparty group, and two from the group led by former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama--Yorihisa Matsuno and Akihiro Hatsushika.

Another lawmaker who belongs to neither group also has expressed his intention to vote against the reform bills.

Of the 13 other dissenters, seven have made it clear they will withhold their ballot or refuse to attend the session. Another six are considering their options, saying they refuse to vote for the bills.

The number of dissenters is likely to increase, as nearly 10 legislators remain undecided as to whether they are for or against the bills.

At the 480-seat lower house, 240 seats are needed to form a majority, which excludes the speaker and a vacant seat. The ruling coalition currently has 292 seats, 289 of which are held by the DPJ and three by the PNP.

This means that if at least 54 lawmakers leave the DPJ, the ruling coalition would lose its majority. Consequently, it would be unable to reject a no-confidence motion against the Cabinet on its own.

Ozawa, who is considering leaving the DPJ and forming a new party after voting against the bills, is trying to ensure at least 54 members will follow his lead.

As the House of Representatives' rules stipulate a no-confidence motion against the Cabinet must be submitted by a minimum of 51 lawmakers, Ozawa would only need 42 legislators to join his new party for it to submit such a motion in cooperation with Kizuna Party, a newly formed party comprising nine lawmakers.

However, some members in Ozawa's group have made it clear they will vote against the bills but remained undecided as to whether they would join his new party.

The Ozawa group has started collecting resignation letters from its about 30 House of Councillors members. "We've collected resignations from at least 18 members," a senior member of the group said.

Concerned over the likelihood that the number of dissenters will rise, the DPJ's executive members are making desperate efforts to persuade lawmakers to stand by their leadership.

During his visit to Itoman, Okinawa Prefecture, on Saturday to attend a memorial to mark the end of the Battle of Okinawa, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda referred to the Ozawa group's move to vote against the bills.

"We've arrived at our party's stance based on painstaking intraparty discussions [on the reform bills]," Noda said. "We'll make every effort until the last minute to urge all of our legislators to act in solidarity."

Noda is expected to seek cooperation over the reform bills from the DPJ's lower house legislators when an extraordinary meeting is held for such members Monday.

 

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