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.

A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home