Japan passes controversial tax bills

Updated: 2012-06-26 19:58


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Japan passes controversial tax bills

Protesters raise their fists as they protest against the government's tax hike plan during a rally in front of parliament in Tokyo June 26, 2012. Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda looks certain to win parliament's approval for his signature tax hike plan on Tuesday but risks deepening a rift in his party that, in an extreme case, could cost him his majority and lead to an early election. [Photo/Agencies]

TOKYO - Japan's House of Representatives on Tuesday passed the controversial tax bills which were supported by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda but were opposed by a group of democrats.

The 480-seat lower house, dominated by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's ruling Democratic Party of Japan, passed the bills by 363 to 96 votes while 57 people from within the DPJ exercised a veto. Noda was facing rebellion from his own party that could eventually threaten his government.

Japan passes controversial tax bills

Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda speaks during a news conference at his official residence in Tokyo June 26, 2012. Noda said on Tuesday he will deal strictly with members of his ruling Democratic Party who voted against a bill to double the 5 percent sales tax. [Photo/Agencies]

If 54 or more of them leave the party, the Democrats will lose their majority in the more powerful lower house, and if Noda is left leading a minority government, a no-confidence motion against his Cabinet could be passed in the Diet, forcing him to step down or dismiss the lower house for a general election.

Noda earlier was struggling to convince the opponents as former DPJ leader Ichiro Ozawa, a lower house member who leads the largest intraparty group, was trying to persuade 53 others to quit the DPJ with him in protest against the tax hike plan.

The package of tax and social security bills passed by the lower house, including one to raise the sales tax to 10 percent by October 2015, will later be voted in the upper house. The tax hike bills were aimed to curb the country's swelling debt.