Japan plunges into political confusion

JAPAN'S Prime Minister, Tsutomu Hata, resigned on Saturday, leaving two former enemies, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the Socialists, courting each other to form the next government. Such an alliance, inconceivable even a year ago, was pilloried by members of Mr Hata's party and by the press as a blatant power grab that would lead to political paralysis and a lack of any real policy-making.

Mr Hata had struggled up to the last minute to persuade the Socialist Party to support his government and its commitment to political reform against a no-confidence motion tabled by the LDP last Thursday. When that failed on Saturday morning, Mr Hata resigned rather than endure the no- confidence motion, which could have led to the dissolution of the Diet. Mr Hata said he wanted to avoid creating a 'political vacuum' in the run-up to next month's G7 summit of industrialised nations in Naples.

But even if an election is avoided, Japan's plan to offer market-opening measures to the G7 summit, and its ability to cope with the record-high yen, will be compromised by the ongoing instability. Mr Hata's chief ally, Ichiro Ozawa, had already warned on Thursday that 'Japan will lose the respect of the international community' if the government was again facing an election as it was during last year's G7 summit.

The Diet will reconvene this afternoon to begin the process of electing a new prime minister. Mr Hata is unlikely to be a candidate as his allies prepare to wait out the LDP-Socialist courtship. 'We have stepped down from office and what we are saying is, if the LDP and the Socialists can really get together, go ahead and do so,' said Yuichi Ichikawa, secretary-general of the Komei party, a member of Mr Hata's old coalition.

Yohei Kono, president of the LDP, said that his party 'has a responsibility to end the political confusion'. It was Mr Kono who tabled the no-confidence motion which plunged the political world into confusion last week, after a key budget bill had been passed.

Mr Kono said there would be no difficulty in a link-up of the LDP and the Socialists, because 'the policies do not differ a lot'. The LDP and the Socialists held diametrically opposed views for the 38 years from 1955 until the last year that the LDP ruled Japan. The left-leaning Socialists and the conservative LDP sat on opposite sides of the Cold War fence, and the Socialists in particular have been slow to update their policies.

'This plan represents a denial of everything the LDP stands for,' editorialised yesterday's Yomiuri Shimbun, the biggest-circulation daily newspaper. It said that the Socialists still regard the existence of Japan's armed forces as unconstitutional, are opposed to the Japan-US security treaty, and differ fundamentally from the LDP over how to deal with North Korea's nuclear programme. 'The plan to form a coalition . . . shows how irresponsible the two political parties are,' it said.

Kozo Watanabe, former trade minister and a leading member of Mr Hata's Japan Renewal Party, lamented that an LDP-Socialist coalition would block plans for political reform. Mr Hata and his powerbroking ally, Mr Ozawa, began the process of political reform last June when they quit the LDP and established their own party to fight the elections in July.

But the LDP and the Socialists, while paying lip service to political reform, tried to prevent it from happening. Both parties feared that Mr Hata's electoral reforms would end four decades of effective gerrymandering of constituencies, and reduce the number of their seats in the Diet.

Yen-dollar battle, Page 25

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth with Tess Daly in the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special
tvLouis Smith wins with 'Jingle Bells' quickstep on Strictly Come Dancing's Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there