Exodus of lawmakers thins Japanese government's majority

Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is the latest in a string of politically fragile Japanese leaders.

Story highlights

  • Two of the Japanese lawmakers on the list of those leaving say they are staying
  • The departing parliamentarians are led by the influential Ichiro Ozawa
  • They say they are protesting the prime minister's plan to double the sales tax
  • It leaves the government with 251 out of 480 seats in the lower house

Fifty rebel lawmakers resigned Monday from Japan's governing party, weakening the majority of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda as he pushes a controversial increase in the sales tax through parliament.

Led by the influential Ichiro Ozawa, 40 members of the lower house and 12 members of the upper house have left the Democratic Party of Japan, said Kenji Yamaoka, a senior lawmaker allied with Ozawa.

However, two of the lower house lawmakers on the list announced by Yamaoka -- Megumu Tsuji and Takeshi Shina -- subsequently said they were not leaving the party, their offices said.

The exodus is in protest over Noda's plan to double the sales tax from 5% to 10% to try to tackle Japan's huge public debt, Yamaoka said. The lower house passed the measure last week despite opposition from the group led by Ozawa, a former party leader known for his political power-broking.

The departures Monday whittle down Noda's majority in the lower house, leaving the Democratic Party of Japan with 251 out of 480 seats. In the upper house, which is still to vote on the sales tax legislation, the party now holds 92 out of 242 seats.

Japan approves controversial sales tax
Japan approves controversial sales tax


    Japan approves controversial sales tax


Japan approves controversial sales tax 02:51

Noda, who took office in September, is the latest in a string of politically fragile Japanese leaders. He is the sixth prime minister in the six years since the departure of Junichiro Koizumi, who was in power for more than five years.

The Ozawa-led exodus has fueled speculation about a possible vote of no confidence being introduced against Noda. But Ozawa has so far failed to lure away enough Democratic Party of Japan members to threaten Noda immediately.

If a vote of no confidence were to be called and Noda lost, he would have to step down or call a snap election.

Ozawa said last week that he expected a general election could be called "in the near future."

      CNN recommends

    • pkg clancy north korea nuclear dreams_00002004.jpg

      North Korea nuclear dream video

      As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
    • Photos: Faces of the world

      Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
    • pkg rivers uk football match fixing_00005026.jpg

      How to fix a soccer match

      Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
    • No Eiffel Towers, Statues of Liberties, Mt. Rushmores, Taj Mahals, Aussie koalas or Chairman Maos.

      15 biggest souvenir-buying no-no's

      It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.