2 July 2012 01:12 ET
Faction leader Ichiro Ozawa has resigned from the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), along with 51 other lawmakers, officials say.
The exodus, which has been expected for some time, still leaves the DPJ with a majority in the lower house of parliament.
But the move is a blow to Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, with Mr Ozawa expected to form his own party.
Mr Ozawa is opposed to the sales tax hike passed in parliament a week ago.
A party official told reporters that 40 lawmakers from the lower house and 12 from the upper chamber of parliament had submitted resignation letters.
If 54 or more lower house lawmakers follow Mr Ozawa, Mr Noda would lose his majority and could be forced to call early polls.
The prime minister says doubling sales tax from 5% to 10% by 2015 is key to cutting Japan’s high public debt and funding rising welfare costs.
The tax hike has seen bitter disagreement and gridlock amongst Japan’s lawmakers.
Mr Ozawa, who led the charge against Mr Noda over the tax hike, is a veteran politician leading the biggest faction within the DPJ.
He says Mr Noda has broken the party’s election promises.
This is not the first time that Mr Ozawa, dubbed “the destroyer”, has torn apart a ruling party, says the BBC’s Mariko Oi in Tokyo. In 1993, he left the Liberal Democratic Party to form his own party.
But voters do not appear to be impressed, says our correspondent, with the latest opinion poll saying only 15% of them support his move.
Ichirō Ozawa was born on May 24th, 1942 according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ichiro_Ozawa
May 24th, 1942
5 + 24 +2+0+1+2 = 34 = his personal year (from May 24th, 2012 to May 23rd, 2013) = Generating a buzz. Things happen really quickly. Getting people all fired up. Lashing out in anger.
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