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
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

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45000: SThree: SThree Group have been well es...

Guru Careers: Copywriter / Direct Response Copywriter

£20k plus sales linked bonus. : Guru Careers: We are seeking a Copywriter to j...

Recruitment Genius: Accounting Technician

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has bec...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen