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Japan opposition parties out of step over consumption tax

Tokyo, Oct. 2 (Jiji Press)–Japanese opposition parties are struggling to keep in lockstep over the consumption tax after the government raised the rate of the tax to 10 pct from 8 pct on Tuesday.


Major parties in the opposition camp are wary of smaller peers’ calls for the rate to be lowered back to 5 pct, although they are largely unified in opposition to the rate of 10 pct.


The consumption tax, introduced in April 1989 at the rate of 3 pct, was raised to 5 pct in April 1997 and then to 8 pct in April 2014.


The tax rate hike to 10 pct was “outrageous,” Yukio Edano, head of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, said at a party meeting on Tuesday. “I want to play the role of passing on the confusion on the ground to national politics,” he added.


The CDPJ urged the government to put the tax hike on ice, during its campaign for the July election for the House of Councillors, the upper chamber of the Diet, Japan’s parliament.


But the party is cautious about plans by Reiwa Shinsengumi and the Japanese Communist Party to submit legislation to cut the rate back to 5 pct, out of concern that changing the tax rate again would only add to the confusion. “If we argue for lower taxes, we will definitely be asked how we are going to pay for it,” a senior CDPJ official said.


Also apparently behind the CDPJ’s wariness is the creation of joint caucuses among the party, the Democratic Party for the People and other opposition lawmakers in both chambers of the Diet last month.


The caucus for the House of Representatives, the lower chamber, has been joined by former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, who led a 2012 agreement to raise the tax rate to 10 pct among the now-defunct Democratic Party of Japan, the then ruling party, and the current ruling pair of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito.


DPFP chief Yuichiro Tamaki said Tuesday, “I want to decide on a position after monitoring the economic situation,” a break from his earlier willingness to submit legislation to lower the tax rate back to 8 pct.


“We want to submit (such legislation), but we would be told that we are ‘out of step’ with the CDPJ although the two parties tied up (for the joint caucus) only recently,” a senior DPFP official said.


Taro Yamamoto, leader of Reiwa Shinsengumi, a recently launched political party, is pushing for lowering the consumption tax rate to 5 pct.


“I am proposing that opposition parties fight the next (Lower House) election with a common policy goal to lower the tax rate to 5 pct,” he said in a street speech Tuesday.


JCP head Kazuo Shii, seeking to boost cooperation with Yamamoto’s party, also took to the streets, calling for lower taxes. “A cut in the tax rate to 5 pct is a fair demand to make.”


Reiwa Shinsengumi aims to make the policy to cut the rate to 5 pct a prerequisite for cooperation among opposition parties for the next Lower House election. A rift over the proposal may affect their possible coordination work to select candidates for the poll, pundits said.

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