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Social Democrats opt to quit Hatoyama’s coalition

Date Posted: 2010-05-31

The smallest member of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s political coalition called it quits Sunday, miffed over the firing of the Social Democratic Party’s leader from the Cabinet, and over the administration’s decision to press forward with moving the U.S. Marine airbase from Futenma to northern Okinawa.

Mizuho Fukushima was sacked Friday by the Prime Minister after she refused to sign a document the other members of the Cabinet inked in support of moving Futenma to the Henoko area and Camp Schwab in northern Okinawa. She blasted the Prime Minister for his refusal to reconsider proposals to move the airbase off Okinawa, and was miffed at having been canned when she didn’t agree to the Hatoyama agreement. “Everybody told me it was good that I have stuck to my beliefs,” she said.

The Social Democratic Party made it official, Fukushima said, noting “we decided to leave the government at an executive meeting.” The SDP has minimal influence, holding only five seats in the Diet’s upper chamber and seven in the lower house. The move could, however, put the Prime Minister on a rocky road to remaining in office.

Hatoyama’s approval ratings have been plummeting over not only the Okinawa-Futenma issue, but also over his handling of the economy and other national problems. Many have called for his immediate resignation; fears from even his own party’s politicians is that Hatoyama could be a detriment to the Democratic Party of Japan doing well in upcoming elections. Hatoyama says he will not step down, telling Japanese media “I want to gain the people’s understanding over my determination to work in this position.

The coalition between the DPJ, the People’s New Party and the Social Democratic Party was forged following Hatoyama’s election last August. At the time, Hatoyama was heralded as the country’s promising leader. The DPJ drubbed the Liberal Democratic Party out of power after their being in power for nearly five decades.

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