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Former Japan Leader Joins Protest Over Atomic Plant Restarts

July 20 (Bloomberg) -- Former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama joined a weekly protest outside current leader Yoshihiko Noda’s official residence today against the re-start of nuclear power plants.

Hatoyama broke ranks with the ruling Democratic Party for the second time in less than a month, after he voted against Noda’s sales-tax increase in the lower house of parliament on June 26. He has said in the past he may leave the party, a move that could deprive Noda of his majority in the lower house and put the government at risk.

Rifts within the ruling party have deepened, reflecting divisions among voters over the restarting of nuclear reactors following the Fukushima disaster last year and the plan to try to tackle Japan’s ballooning debt by doubling the sales tax.

Anti-nuclear demonstrations outside the prime minister’s residence have drawn tens of thousands of people in recent weeks, some of the largest demonstrations in decades.

“This new wave of democracy must be taken very seriously,” Hatoyama said in a speech to protesters. “The walls of the prime minister’s residence are thick, and sometimes the voices of the people do not get through.”

Hatoyama then met with top government spokesman Osamu Fujimura and told reporters he wanted to arrange a meeting between Noda and the demonstrators in the near future.

Noda, who already faces an opposition-dominated upper house, would face fresh difficulty passing legislation if the DPJ were to lose its lower house majority.

To contact the reporter on this story: Isabel Reynolds in Tokyo at ireynolds1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Anstey at canstey@bloomberg.net

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