Japan's PM, ruling party in trouble
A powerful politician and dozens of his followers quit Japan's ruling party yesterday and are likely to form their own rival bloc, dealing a blow to Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.
Ichiro Ozawa and 49 other lawmakers submitted their resignations to the Democratic Party of Japan, and others could follow later, party officials said.
Thirty-eight are members of the lower house of Parliament, where a loss of 11 more seats would end the ruling party's majority and could force Noda to call new elections.
Ozawa, 70, played a key role in the party's rise to power in 2009, defeating the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party. He has been a vocal critic of Noda's plan to double Japan's sales tax to 10 percent by 2015.
The tax hike has passed the lower house and is expected to be approved by the less-powerful upper house since it has the backing of the two largest opposition parties.
Ozawa said the ruling party has "betrayed" the public by teaming up with the opposition to ram through the tax hike.
"The Democratic Party under Prime Minister Noda is no longer the one that achieved a power change," Ozawa told a news conference. "We are looking at forming a new party in order to return to our initial principle of establishing a political system in which the people can have a choice."
Ozawa declined to give further details about the new grouping, but said it would focus on addressing the people's main concerns, such as nuclear safety, in addition to opposing the tax increase.
He said a decision on policies and other details of a new party would be announced in a few days.
The party split will make it harder for Noda to achieve his policy goals in Parliament.