DPJ to expel Ozawa, 36 rebels; suspend Hatoyama for 3 months
The ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) on Monday formally decided to expel former party leader Ichiro Ozawa and 36 of his party supporters over their decision last week to quit the party.
Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama was suspended from the party for three months.
DPJ Secretary General Azuma Koshiishi said the decision was based on recommendations from the DPJ’s ethics committee, Fuji TV reported.
Ozawa, 70, and 49 other lawmakers quit the party over their opposition to the bill to raise the consumption tax. Thirty-eight are members of the lower house, where a loss of 11 more seats would end the ruling party’s majority and could force Noda to call new elections.
Ozawa maintains the ruling party has “betrayed” the public by teaming up with the opposition to ram through the tax hike. He says the DPJ under Noda is no longer the same as the one that took power in 2009.
Ozawa met Hatoyama on Monday to discuss the formation of a new party which is expected to be announced on Wednesday. “We are looking to return to our initial principle of establishing a political system in which the people can have a choice,” Ozawa told reporters. He added that the new party will oppose the tax increase.
Ozawa is unpopular with many voters and is seen as an old-style, wheeling-and-dealing politician. However, he continues to have a loyal core of supporters, many of them younger politicians whose careers he helped launch.
He has repeatedly split and created new political groups since he bolted from the Liberal Democrats with 43 fellow members in 1993. He merged his faction with the Democratic Party in 2003.
But this time, only about half of the members of his faction are leaving the ruling party, which analysts said could indicate Ozawa’s waning influence.