In an anticipated move that will weaken the Japanese government, the rebel faction of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), led by former party leader and power broker Ichiro Ozawa, has quit the party in protest against Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's sales tax hike proposal.
Fifty DPJ lawmakers, mostly from the Lower House of the Japanese Diet (Parliament), on Monday submitted resignation letters to the party Secretary-General, Ozawa's aide Kenji Yamaoka told reporters.
Although the defection will not deprive the DPJ of its majority in the Lower House of Parliament, it is strong enough to destabilize the Noda government, with Ozawa expected to form a new party.
If 55 MPs of the Lower House quit DPJ, it will lose majority in the Parliament, warranting early elections.
Renewed conflict within the ruling party, between supporters and opponents of the tax hike, caused embarrassment for DPJ last week, as its more than 50 MPs, including Ozawa, voted against a bill to hike sales tax in the House of Representatives.
But the bill was passed with comfortable majority, as DPJ, the main Opposition Liberal Democratic Party and its ally, the New Komeito party, voted for the bill.
With the support of the two main Opposition parties assured, the bill is expected to pass in the Upper House to become law.
Noda called on the Opposition for continued support of the legislation in the House of Councilors, where the ruling party lacks a majority. He vowed to press ahead with reforms.
Noda says doubling the sales tax rate in two stages to ten percent by 2015 is inevitable to help cut Japan's public debt and to fund rising welfare costs.
Ozawa, who has been the leader of DPJ's largest intra-party group, says Noda has broken the party's poll promises.
Reports quoting political sources said Ozawa, who caused a split in the Liberal Democratic Party in 1993, and is credited with leading the DPJ to power in 2009, is expected to start arrangements to form a new party.
by RTT Staff Writer
For comments and feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org