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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 August 2005, 12:51 GMT 13:51 UK
Japanese rebels found new party
The new party members (L-R) Hideaki Tamura, Hisaoki Kamei, Tamisuke Watanuki, Kensei Hasegawa and Shizuka Kamei display their new party's name "New People"s Party" in Tokyo 17 Aug 2005
The new members display their party's name
Members of Japan's ruling party who voted against Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's key postal reforms have defected to set up their own party.

Four rebels from the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) who opposed the bill have formed the New People's Party.

The failure of the postal bill in the Upper House in July led Mr Koizumi to call a snap election for 11 September.

The reforms were a key part of Mr Koizumi's policy agenda - and an issue on which he has staked his reputation.

The prime minister has already said that any rebels who voted against the reforms will not be allowed to run on the LDP ticket in the September elections.

In fact, according to media reports, Mr Koizumi is specially picking high-profile candidates to run against them.

Among the possible new faces are Takafumi Horie, a young internet entrepreneur, and Makiko Fujino, a TV chef.

"It is unprecedented in the LDP's history to send 'assassins' to liquidate fellow members," Shizuka Kamei, one rebel who has joined the new party, told the French news agency AFP.

Making a difference

The New People's Party, led by LDP rebel Tamisuke Watanuki, was launched on Wednesday by five key politicians.

Three of them are former members of the LDP in Japan's Lower House, one was an Upper House LDP lawmaker, and the other was an Upper House member of the opposition Democratic Party.

Shizuka Kamei said he hoped the rebel party would capture enough seats to alter the balance of power.

He claimed that neither the ruling coalition - the LDP and its junior partner, the New Komeito party - nor the main opposition Democratic Party were likely to win an outright majority.

The New People's Party has appealed for support from Mr Koizumi's critics throughout the country, but so far most of the 37 LDP members who voted against the postal reforms have refused to join.

Some may prefer to run as independents, while others are still reportedly hoping their local LDP offices will put them forward anyway, despite Mr Koizumi's ban.

"I will not join [a new party] as I belong to the LDP," rebel Seiko Noda told AFP on Tuesday.

Public sector monolith

Mr Koizumi made post office privatisation the cornerstone of the economic reforms he has pursued since taking office in 2001.

Proponents of the reforms say they are urgently needed to put the postal service's massive deposits into the hands of private investors and reignite the economy.

But the plans were opposed by many, who feared they would lead to a poorer postal service and the loss of many thousands of jobs.

Japan Post has about 25,000 post offices nationwide, which all sell the system's savings and insurance products, as well as regular postal services.





SEE ALSO:
Japanese press urges bold reforms
09 Aug 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Japan faces new political landscape
08 Aug 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Reform stalls as Japan poll looms
08 Aug 05 |  Business
Profile: Junichiro Koizumi
05 Jul 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Japan
14 Jun 05 |  Country profiles


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