Japan lower house passes budget

09:23, March 02, 2011      

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Japan's government pushed through a $1 trillion budget for the year from April in the lower house Tuesday, but some MPs from Prime Minister Naoto Kan's own party boycotted the vote in a sign of his weakening clout.

Kan faces growing calls, including within his own ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), to step down and break a deadlock in a divided parliament where opposition parties have threatened to block bills needed to make the 2011-12 budget work.

The DPJ had enough votes in the lower house to pass the budget, but it needs approval from the opposition-controlled upper chamber to pass related bills, including one to allow issuance of deficit-financing bonds and another on tax reforms that would lower the effective corporate tax rate.

Failure to pass budget-related bills could cause a shutdown of parts of the government within months, similar to what happened in the US in the 1990s, and increase the chance of a downgrade of Japan's debt rating.

Sixteen lawmakers backing Kan's rival powerbroker boycotted the lower house vote on the budget, in an embarrassment for Kan and a sign of fraying unity in his party.

"On those in the party who intentionally boycotted the vote, I don't think the public will see them as acting responsibly as members of the ruling party,"Kan's top aide, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, told a news conference. "The party will seek the understanding of the public by dealing firmly with this matter."

DPJ executives will seek to punish the group by suspending the party membership of their leader for six months, while reprimanding the rest, party Secretary General Katsuya Okada told reporters.

Kan's rival and former party head Ichiro Ozawa Tuesday objected to the DPJ executives' decision to suspend his party membership until his trial over suspected misreporting by his funding organization is done, Kyodo news agency reported.

Source: Global Times
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