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Hatoyama’s political moves could damage PM Noda

Date Posted: 2012-07-20

Public opinion polls aren’t thinking highly of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and his government these days, and now the talk of a former Prime Minister walking away from the Democratic Party of Japan is threatening those ratings even further.

Sources say former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama is considering bolting from the ruling Democratic Party of Japan following his three-month suspension from the party over his opposition to the consumption tax hike. Hatoyama is saying the talk is “groundless”, but he’s been meeting with 20-30 other tax hike opponents on a regular basis. The former Prime Minister’s focus, stated during a group meeting, is that “we must put a stop to the current government, which is going out of control.”

Hatoyama’s suspension came at the same time renegade DPJ lawmaker Ichiro Ozawa and 49 of his colleagues split from the DPJ to form the new Kokumin no Seikatsu ga Daiichi, People’s Life First, Party. With the defection of Ozawa and his followers, Noda’s hold on control of the Lower House is minimal, which has all eyes on Hatoyama. If 16 or more political leaders follow Ozawa’s lead and exit the DPJ and Kokumin Shinto, People’s New Party, the Prime Minister’s coalition is dead in the water.

Political pundits say Hatoyama’s fear of splitting from the DPJ are political; if he follows Ozawa, who’s viewed as a rebel, it could set up a difficult reelection battle for the former Prime Minister. There are already problems looming, because Prime Minister Noda said the consumption tax hike will be a part of the formal DPJ party platform for coming elections, and those who oppose it won’t be treated as official DPJ candidates. Noda’s already backed down on that harsh statement, but maintains DPJ-backed candidates should support the party’s platform.

Noda says “the DPJ will hold a wide range of discussions on the manifesto for the next election and we must come up with a policy platform that . . . will be backed by everyone in the party.” He also told an Upper House plenary session candidates will be viewed, and “the decision must be made by myself as well as the secretary general, the campaign manager and the rest of the DPJ leadership, and the local branches nationwide.”

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