Rebel pact may follow Japan poll

TSUTOMU HATA, the leader of the rebel group within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), will co- operate with opposition parties after the next elections in an attempt to break the LDP's long dominance of Japanese politics.

Mr Hata said yesterday that he was aiming to establish a coalition of 170 to 180 parliament members in the 511 member lower house - not enough to form an absolute majority, but a significant grouping of people whom he said would share a vision of 'reforming politics'. Mr Hata said his coalition would include members from the main opposition party, the Socialists.

The Prime Minister, Kiichi Miya zawa, decided on Saturday to hold elections for the lower house of the parliament on 18 July, following the vote of no confidence on Friday night.

The LDP has 278 seats, compared to the opposition's 218. The Socialists have 140 seats, followed by the Komei Party, the Communists and Democratic Socialists. But 55 LDP members either voted against the party or abstained on Friday, shocking party elders. Mr Hata's faction has 35 lower house members, and he has announced that he will form a new party on Wednesday. Another splinter group of 10 LDP parliamentarians has announced that it, too, will set up a new party for the elections.

The timing of the elections will complicate arrangements for the Group of Seven industrialised nations' summit in Tokyo next month. Campaigning - which is noisy in Japan - will begin on 4 July, even though the G7 summit runs from 7-9 July.

The other option, of holding the elections later in order to avoid any disturbance to the summit, was rejected for domestic political reasons: on 22 July the disgraced former LDP godfather, Shin Kanemaru, goes on trial for tax evasion and, in its current sorry state, the last thing the LDP needs as it heads into an election is a reminder to the electorate of just how corrupt its ranks have become. The choice of the earlier election date is a reminder of the relative priorities the LDP gives to foreign and domestic policy. Mr Hata yesterday said the mainstream LDP was to blame for allowing a domestic political crisis to blow up as Japan was preparing to host the G7 summit.

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