Socialists tax Hosokawa's patience

THE JAPANESE Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa's emergency package of at least pounds 82bn to get the economy moving again was stalled last night by the continued refusal of the Socialists to accept part of the package concerning tax reform. Mr Hosokawa held talks late into the night with the Socialists and his other coalition partners to find a way out of this latest political impasse. The discussions will be resumed this morning but observers said a compromise was in sight.

The Socialists, who have opposed virtually every reform proposal Mr Hosokawa has made in the six months of his government, are increasingly becoming a millstone around the Prime Minister's neck. They held out against the import of foreign rice, derailed the political reform bills, and now find themselves opposing economic recovery.

Early yesterday, Mr Hosokawa had outlined a bold plan to revitalise the economy, including a steep cut of pounds 35bn in income tax to encourage consumers to spend again. To finance the income-tax cut the Prime Minister proposed raising sales tax from its current 3 per cent to 7 per cent in 1997.

But the Socialists, claiming such a change in the tax-collection system would benefit the rich and hurt the poor, threatened to pull out of the government if the plan went ahead. The Socialists' opposition to the sales tax rise was also prompted by their own electoral interests. Few in the party have forgotten the halcyon days in 1989, when the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) introduced the 3 per cent sales tax and then lost its majority in Upper House elections to the Socialists, who had campaigned against the unpopular measure. The Socialists clearly see electoral gains in keeping up their opposition to the tax.

Political chaos has become the rule, not the exception, as the government has struggled to push through various reform measures. Each time the main liability to Mr Hosokawa's seven-party coalition has been the Socialists, many of whose deputies still act as if they thought the Cold War could be won by the left. Although satirised in the press as 'Marxist dinosaurs' and 'Jurassic Socialists', the party has been unable to cleanse its ranks of fanatical left-wingers and present a more moderate public face.

The Socialist Party was set up in 1945, but apart from a nine-month spell in 1948-49, when it formed part of a coalition government, it had never held power until it joined the anti-LDP government last year. For the LDP's 38 years in power from 1955, the Socialists became a 'professional opposition', with no apparent desire to put forward policies that would attract enough voters for it to form a government.

Oblivious to the direction a modernising and increasingly middle-class Japan was taking, the Socialists declared themselves a 'national party with the working-class at its core' and in 1964 called for a Marxist-Leninist dictatorship of the proletariat. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s the party was torn between right- and left-wing factions.

In an indication of the party's inability to extricate itself from dogma, the executive announced in 1991 that the party's official name should be changed from the Socialist Party to the Social Democratic Party - but only in English. In Japanese it remained the Shakai-to - which means Socialist Party.

'It is a peculiar phenomenon, but this should be understood as best reflecting the latest compromise between the right-wing and left-wing members of the party,' said Masahiro Yamamoto, a former vice-chairman of the Socialists.

The Socialists had steadfastly refused to recognise South Korea, preferring the 'pure strain' of socialism of Kim Il Sung in North Korea. And it was not until last year, when the Cold War and the Soviet threat were well and truly over, that the Socialists finally brought themselves to accept the US-Japan Security Treaty, agreed upon in 1951 precisely to counter Soviet expansionism.

For Mr Hosokawa's 'reformist' government the backward-looking Socialists have become a constant liability. If they continue as they are going, the Socialists may soon find themselves back on the opposition benches they seem to prefer.

View from City Road, page 30

Hamish McRae, page 31

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office / Sales Manager

£22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established and expanding South...

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones