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September 26, 2017

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'Destroyer' aims to create a new Japan

Ichiro Ozawa, known as the "destroyer" for splitting political parties, did it again on July 2. He left the Democratic Party of Japan, which he organized to topple the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party two years ago, together with 49 lawmakers of his faction to undermine Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's grip on power. The split of the ruling party, of which Ozawa was the first leader, followed Noda's victory in getting a government-sponsored bill passed by the lower house of the Diet to raise the consumption tax less than a week before. Ozawa's excuse to bolt from the party was that the tax hike was a "betrayal against the people" and the party is composed of "liars." Ozawa is planning to launch a new party of his own in preparation for the next general election.

What will happen after Ozawa's new party is created?

The tax bill, which would hike the sales tax to 10 percent by 2015, was adopted after the Liberal Democratic Party and the Komeito threw in their support for Noda. The two opposition parties are expected to help Noda get the bill passed in the upper house of the Diet to make it a law of the land in August. But immediately after the final legislation, they will call for a no-confidence vote on Noda, which is all but certain to pass with the support of Ozawa's party, and force Noda to call a general election before his term is up in the fall of 2013. Noda's ruling coalition will lose its current majority in the lower house if it loses 55 seats, and the opposition parties, together with Ozawa's followers and a few more defectors from the Democratic Party, will oust Noda as prime minister.

One thing that may emerge in the suddenly called general election is the rise of ultra-nationalists, their stars being Governor Shintaro Ishihara and Toru Hashimoto, governor turned mayor of Osaka. Hashimoto, the most popular politician in Japan now, has his own party, Ishin-no-Kai, which literally means the Group for Restoration. The party, named a la the Meiji Restoration that yanked Japan out of feudalism to rise as a world power, is seeking to take a foothold in Japan's parliament. He is a charismatic 42-year-old leader in the country known for the blandness and advanced age of its politicians. He was first elected governor of Osaka and then quit to run for the city of Osaka and overwhelmingly won the office. His ascendancy reflects a growing disenchantment with government in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster triggered by the massive tsunami resulting from the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011. An official investigation report, released last week, pointed an accusing finger at the Noda administration for the Fukushima disaster, dooming any chance the Democratic Party will remain the largest party in the lower house after the new general election.

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