February 13, 2009 / 11:13 AM / in 11 years

Japan Communists say wouldn't join ruling bloc

Kazuo Shii, executive committee chairman of Japan's Communist Party, is seen at the Seodaemun Prison in Seoul in this September 5, 2006 file photo. REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won/Files

TOKYO (Reuters) -Japan’s Communist Party will not join a ruling coalition if the main opposition Democratic Party wins power this year, but will be willing to cooperate on a range of policy issues, the party’s chief said on Friday.

“There are certainly no conditions under which we would cooperate in forming an administration with the Democrats, not to mention the Liberal Democratic Party,” Japanese Communist Party Chairman Kazuo Shii told Reuters in an interview on Friday.

“In order to form a coalition, we would at least need to agree on the basic issues of domestic politics,” he said, adding that the two parties differ on key topics such as whether or not to raise the consumption tax or to maintain Japan’s pacifist constitution.

Surveys show the 10-year-old Democratic Party could come out on top in an election that must be held by October, leaving out in the cold the conservative ruling Liberal Democratic Party after more than five decades of almost unbroken rule.

But if they fail to win a majority on their own in parliament’s powerful lower house, they would need support from smaller opposition parties. They also need cooperation from other parties in the upper chamber.

The Democrats, originally an amalgam of former LDP, socialist and various small-party lawmakers, took away seats from the Communists as they emerged in the late 1990s.

The Communists now have 9 seats out of 480 in the lower house, steadily falling from a peak of 41 in 1971.

Shii, 54, said his party was willing to cooperate with other parties on certain policy issues, including scrapping an unpopular medical insurance scheme that forces some people aged 75 and over to pay more for health care.

The Communist party, the oldest political party in Japan, has toned down its rhetoric over the years and now presents a softer face to the world. Its basic platform opposes the U.S.-Japan security alliance and promises hefty taxes on big businesses.

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