Japan's ruling party divides rebels to challenge Miyazawa

June 22, 1993|By New York Times News Service

TOKYO -- Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party continued to splinter yesterday, as a group of 10 young legislators broke off to form yet another new party that further reduces the chances that Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa's government will be able to retain power.

The defection would in ordinary times pose little threat to the Liberal Democrats. But another 35 to 40 party members, who led the rebellion that forced a no-confidence vote against Mr. Miyazawa through Parliament Friday, are expected to announce tomorrow that they also will form a rival party.

Those defections mean that the Liberal Democrats have lost their majority in the powerful lower house of the Diet, Japan's parliament, and, to retain power, would have to defeat the splinter groups in elections July 18.

Like the Liberal Democrats, the new splinter groups are pro-U.S. and conservative, but they stand for a more assertive style of politics, including striving for a greater international role for Japan.

At a news conference yesterday, a group of 10 former Liberal Democrats, led by Masayoshi Takemura, who had headed a Liberal Democratic committee on political reform until he quit in disgust, unfurled a large scroll with their party's name, New Party Sakigake. Sakigake means "initiative" or "pioneer."

The rebels criticizing established Japanese "politics" as being incapable of "responding to conditions in the post-Cold War era."

Mr. Hata and his co-leader, former Liberal Democratic Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa, want to replace what Mr. Ozawa calls "lukewarm" collusive decision-making, often conducted behind closed doors, with real policy debates.

Mr. Miyazawa, speaking yesterday on the turmoil for the first time since his defeat Friday, focused on the notion that the Socialists -- who have usually been regarded by Japanese voters as extremist and unfit to take power -- might suddenly have a large voice in national policy.

"I'm not ready to leave Japanese politics up to the opposition," he said.

The possibility that the Liberal Democrats could lose the majority in the lower house of the Diet, and thus the premiership, sent jitters through Japan's financial markets.

The Nikkei Stock Index dropped 3 percent yesterday. The political turmoil also has reversed the yen's recent surge against the dollar, dropping the yen about 5 percent against the dollar in four trading days.

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