Thu, Aug 09, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Japanese PM in 11th-hour bid to save tax hike plan

AFP, TOKYO

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda was scrambling yesterday to save his prized consumption tax bill after the main opposition threatened to withdraw support unless a general election is called.

Noda had looked to be on the home straight of a long and difficult bid to double sales tax and help plug the gaping budgetary hole with a final upper house vote on the legislation yesterday. However, political maneuvering by the opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) forced the prime minister into pledging an election “in the near future” once the legislation is approved.

Noda has put his political life on the line to hike the 5 percent consumption tax in what experts have hailed as a sensible way for Japan to begin tackling its huge mountain of debt.

The measure passed the powerful lower house in June with support from the LDP and its junior partner, New Komeito, with Noda riding out a rebellion in his fragmenting Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ).

However, the LDP has since sought to exploit Noda’s sliding popularity by raising the price of its support in the upper house where the government does not have a majority.

Koriki Jojima, the DPJ’s Diet affairs chief, met with his counterparts from the LDP and New Komeito yesterday morning and requested a meeting among the leaders of the three parties.

Noda would tell them “he will go to the polls in the near future upon the enactment of the legislation,” Jojima told reporters.

However, his LDP counterpart, Fumio Kishida, said the offer was short of the mark.

“We cannot accept the expression, ‘the near future.’ I don’t see any change from what the prime minister has said in the past,” he said.

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