Socialists to quit Japan coalition over US bases

The decision of Social Democratic Party will put pressure on the PM.

Tokyo: Japan`s socialist party on Sunday decided to leave the country`s ruling coalition in a row over a US base, putting pressure on Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama ahead of July elections, Jiji Press reported.

The move came after Hatoyama on Friday dismissed Social Democratic Party (SDP) chief Mizuho Fukushima as his consumer affairs minister.

Fukushima had opposed Hatoyama`s decision to retain the US military base on Okinawa despite his pre-election promise to set aside an agreement on the base reached by Washington and Tokyo in 2006.

The decision was made at a meeting of secretaries-general of the party`s branches from around the country.

"We will leave (the coalition) but we will explore relations with other parties in both houses of Parliament," SDP secretary-general Yasumasa Shigeno told a news conference.

The SDP has only minimal representation in both houses of Parliament but the DPJ, which dominates the key lower house, needs the help of other parties to secure a majority in the upper house.

The SDP`s departure could further influence public sentiment after Hatoyama`s approval ratings plunged to all-time lows of around 20 percent before the July elections in which a half of the seats in the upper house will be contested.

Bureau Report

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