Former PM Yukio Hatoyama retiring from politics

Current Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda stated today that former premier, and member of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), Yukio Hatoyama would be leaving the party prior to next month’s general election, and retiring from politics altogether. Leading up to the decision, 65 year old Hatoyama was already unhappy with the DPJ’s direction and Noda’s commitment to joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement.

Hatoyama was the first prime minister from the DPJ when the party gained power in 2009, however he only served for nine months. He was also one of the leading figures of the party when it was established in 1998. In regards to his opposition to the party’s current policies, Hatoyama told his followers that his views were far too different these days, and that he didn’t have any choice but to leave. In previous years he was seen as somewhat of an oddball, with the Japanese media giving him the nickname “The Alien” for his wide-eyed expressions, as well as his spirituality-interested wife, Miyuki, who claimed she once visited the planet Venus on a triangular spaceship, and met Tom Cruise in a previous life.

The former prime minister has a personal wealth reaching into the millions. He is recognized for coming from a family with powerful political and business connections, including a grandfather who served as prime minister once, and another who founded tire manufacturing giant Bridgestone. When he took the seat in 2009, he was seen by the public as someone who would bring the change the DPJ had promised in its campaign pledges, however that reputation quickly diminished when he changed his stance on removing one the controversial U.S. military bases in Okinawa.

Japan’s polictics shifting to the right

Japanese politics are shifting to the right, and the impact on regional security could be crucial.

Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s surprise victory to head Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) last week represents a second chance to lead the conservative party and, by early next year, very possibly all of Japan. His first stint as prime minister ended in 2007 with a whimper after just a year. A second go as Japan’s leader is apt to be accompanied by noisier ambitions.

Before one assumes this has something to do with major reforms within the LDP or Abe’s charisma (many Japanese are impressed by neither), Japan’s political currents are primarily driven by disappointment in the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ). Although Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda may be the best of three successive DPJ leaders since taking control of the country in 2009, he could feel the full brunt of electoral frustration at the next election, as early as November but no later than next summer.

Read the rest of the story: Japan’s rightward shift.

Hatoyama Plans to Form New Party Spells Trouble for Noda

Speculation is rife that former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and his followers will form a new party, and whether he stays in the ruling Democratic Party of Japan could determine the future of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s government.

The DPJ has already lost 49 lawmakers to Ichiro Ozawa’s new Kokumin no Seikatsu ga Daiichi (People’s Life First) and Noda is barely maintaining a majority in the Lower House. If 16 or more lawmakers follow Ozawa’s lead, the DPJ-Kokumin Shinto (People’s New Party) coalition would fall from power.

Hatoyama denied media reports Friday that he could leave the DPJ over his opposition to the consumption tax hike and launch a new party, saying they are “groundless.”

Read the rest of the story: Hatoyama exit could doom Noda.

Japan’s DPJ seeks to extend Diet session

Japan’s ruling political party has proposed extending the current parliamentary session, which is set to end on Thursday, until Sept. 8 to buy enough time to vote on several contentious tax and social security reform bills, according to media reports. The Democratic Party of Japan and two key opposition parties sent a pair of bills to the Diet Wednesday night in a rare show of unity, the Nikkei newspaper reported in its online edition Thursday. The three parties will submit revised versions of a more contentious proposal to increase a consumption tax rate, as well as changes to the country’s social security, in the coming days. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda addressed an assembly of DPJ lawmakers Wednesday evening, calling for solidarity on the reforms package, but ran into opposition from a faction of the DPJ, headed by heavyweight politician Ichiro Ozawa, which is resisting the consumption tax hike, the Nikkei added.

Japan Politics: New party Kizuna launched by 9 DPJ defectors

Nine Lower House lawmakers who announced last week that they were leaving the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, on Wednesday launched a new party called Kizuna.

The party, headed by Akira Uchiyama from Chiba Prefecture, filed their application with the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

The nine DPJ defectors said they left the DPJ because of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s decision to hike the consumption tax and resume the Yamba dam project.

Read the rest of the story: New party Kizuna launched by 9 DPJ defectors.

Cracks appear in Japan’s ruling party

Cracks began to appear in the government of Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan Thursday when a senior official resigned over the suspension of a key party figure.

Kenko Matsuki, a lawmaker of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), tendered his resignation as a parliamentary secretary at the farm ministry over the treatment of his faction boss, Ichiro Ozawa.

"I have received and accepted the resignation," Kan told reporters at his official residence. "It is very regrettable."

On Tuesday, Kan suspended Ozawa’s party membership until the end of a trial over a funding scandal.

Japanese media reported that other government-post holding Ozawa supporters or sympathisers could follow Matsuki’s lead, heaping pressure on Kan, Japan’s fifth premier in as many years, to resign or call snap elections.

Read the rest of the story: Fractures appear in Japan ruling party.

The Ozawa 16 – Ozawa Loyalist apply to leave DPJ

Sixteen Lower House members of the Democratic Party of Japan loyal to Ichiro Ozawa applied Thursday to leave the DPJ’s parliamentary group in the Diet and form a new group in an apparent attempt to pressure party leaders to back away from punishing the kingpin.

A parliamentary group is a body comprised of lawmakers who have agreed to vote the same. In most cases they are members of the same party. All DPJ members and some independents currently belong to the DPJ-led parliamentary group.

The lawmakers said the move does not mean they will leave the DPJ.

The move came as the DPJ moves the process forward to suspend Ozawa’s membership in the party over his indictment stemming from his political funding scandal.

Read the rest of the story: Punish Ozawa at your peril: 16 DPJ allies.

Ozawa party membership to be suspended

Top officials in the Democratic Party of Japan on Monday proposed to suspend the party membership of political powerbroker Ichiro Ozawa over a funding scandal that has sharply divided the ruling party.

DPJ executives agreed on the proposal at their meeting Monday and plan to present it at the party’s Standing Officers Council as early as Tuesday, officials said.
The punitive move came after court-appointed lawyers indicted Ozawa last month on charges of involvement in false financial statements filed in 2004 and 2005 by the body that manages his campaign funds.

If his membership is officially suspended, Ozawa will be stripped of all party titles and financial support.

“The decision is what the DPJ showed as its responsibility,” Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who is also the DPJ’s president, told a news conference.

Read the rest of the story: Japans ruling party seeks to punish powerbroker – Yahoo! News.

Democratic Party of Japan Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa in Hot Water

Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said on Thursday he would keep Ichiro Ozawa on as the ruling party’s No.2, a day after prosecutors searched the office of Ozawa’s funding group over possible irregularities. Ozawa’s image had already been tarnished by the indictment of an aide for taking illegal corporate donations, prompting him to quit as party leader last May.

Democratic Party of Japan Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa vowed Saturday to fight on despite the new arrests of his key aides over a political funds scandal that could hurt voter support ahead of July’s Upper House election.

During the DPJ’s annual convention in Tokyo, Ozawa accused prosecutors of conducting an “unacceptable” investigation that has resulted in the arrests of three of his former aides for failing to declare in his political funds report ¥400 million that was used to buy a Tokyo land plot in 2004.

Prosecutors suspect that part of the money may have come from illegal donations from construction companies in return for favors in a dam construction project in Iwate Prefecture, Ozawa’s political base.

Ozawa, who had remained tight-lipped on the land deal, told the convention that he will fight and seek justice.

“There might have been miscalculations or errors on records, but typically such issues are let off after making revisions and corrections in most cases,” Ozawa said.

The DPJ kingpin explained that the ¥400 million purchase of the Tokyo plot was funded by his own hard-earned assets and not, as reported, by shady donations from construction companies.

“No one probably felt like they understood (Ozawa’s statements),” Kozo Watanabe, a 77-year-old Democratic lawmaker and a former party adviser, said on national broadcaster NHK.

“If Ozawa is innocent then I hope he will fulfill his responsibility to explain straightforwardly to the people.”

Analysts say support for the government and the party could fall if Ozawa, widely seen as the most influential figure in the Democratic Party, is forced to step down ahead of the election. But it remains to be seen how the investigation will play out.