Japan ruling coalition threatens to fall apart: Left-right divisions after PM quits are both personal and ideological

JAPAN'S seven-party governing coalition was on the verge of a split last night as its members quarrelled over the successor to the Prime Minister, Morihiro Hosokawa. Three parties boycotted the latest round of talks, widening divisions in the government.

Coalition leaders have fallen into two opposing factions, each seeking to recruit defectors from the largest party in parliament, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which lost power last year for the first time in 38 years. While one camp is mainly left-wing and the other conservative, their differences are as much personal as ideological.

Mr Hosokawa announced on Friday that he would quit after irregularities in his personal finances came to light, but he remains Prime Minister until a successor is approved by parliament. He struggled to hold together the disparate alliance of Socialists, centrists and former LDP conservatives during his eight months in office, and his impending departure has emphasised how little they have in common.

The likelihood of months of political instability was increased yesterday by Mr Hosokawa's decision to convene a government panel to redraw Japan's constituencies. While this was one of the coalition's key proposals, it is expected to rule out an early election. The head of the panel promised it would complete its work by October, but in the meantime Japan will be saddled with a government incapable of stimulating the world's second biggest economy, resolving trade disputes with the US or dealing with urgent foreign policy questions.

The principal factor dividing the coalition is the personality, tactics and political outlook of Ichiro Ozawa, who continues to use the back-room methods he learnt in the LDP. He is co-leader of the Shinseito (Japan Renewal Party) with the Foreign Minister, Tsutomu Hata, whom he and other former LDP conservatives want to install as Mr Hosokawa's successor. But Mr Ozawa and his ideas of Japan playing a greater political and military role in international affairs are anathema to the more liberal wing of the coalition, including the largest party, the Socialists.

The loudest voice against him is that of Masayoshi Takemura, leader of the Sakigake Party and chief cabinet secretary in the coalition government. Mr Takemura, like Mr Ozawa, was once in the LDP, but belonged to a more liberal faction allied with the former prime minister, Toshiki Kaifu. Yesterday he issued a set of political proposals aimed at encouraging LDP defectors to join him. The programme, an explicit rejection of Mr Ozawa's philosophy, was called 'a sheer act of betrayal' by a Shinseito leader.

Shinseito and Mr Hosokawa's Japan New Party were among those boycotting yesterday's round of talks. Instead Mr Ozawa and his colleagues are openly courting an alliance with an LDP bloc led by Michio Watanabe, a former foreign minister, who would probably have to be offered the prime ministership if he were to defect. Such a possibility highlights the frailty of Japanese politics - when he was in office the 70-year-old Mr Watanabe was so enfeebled by an illness that he was unable to carry out his ministerial duties for long periods, but the LDP government would not confirm or deny that he had cancer.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
filmPoldark production team claims innocence of viewers' ab frenzy
Life and Style
Google marks the 81st anniversary of the Loch Ness Monster's most famous photograph
techIt's the 81st anniversary of THAT iconic photograph
News
Katie Hopkins makes a living out of courting controversy
people
News
General Election
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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: Office Administrator

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Administrator is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - Commercial Vehicles - OTE £40,000

£12000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - Sheffield - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer position with a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Leader - Plasma Processing

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Operations Leader is required to join a lea...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders