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Next Diet session likely to be challenging

Publication Date : 22-10-2012


Japan's ruling and opposition parties are escalating a war of words ahead of the start of the next extraordinary Diet session scheduled to convene October 29.

The ruling Democratic Party of Japan plans to take an aggressive stance in managing Diet affairs. It is said to be considering tactics to pass key bills through the House of Representatives and force the opposition camp, which jointly holds a majority in the House of Councillors, to decide whether to pass the bills in the upper house.

Meanwhile, the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito are poised to refuse to participate in Diet deliberations on the bills if necessary to force Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to dissolve the lower house within the year.

Given such circumstances, the upcoming extraordinary Diet session will likely be trouble-plagued from the start.

The government and the DPJ plan to hold the extraordinary session for 33 days until November 30.

In a TV Tokyo programme on Saturday, Deputy Prime Minister Katsuya Okada criticised LDP President Shinzo Abe's reactions during a recent three-party meeting.

"It was an opportunity to judge whether Mr Abe would behave as a man who could become prime minister in the near future. Instead, he played the role of opposition party leader very well," Okada said.

Okada criticised the breakdown of the meeting of leaders of the DPJ, the LDP and Komeito on Friday, during which the opposition camp insisted the lower house should be dissolved within the year.

At the meeting, Noda mentioned the agenda items for the extraordinary Diet session, which are: a special bond bill to enable the government to issue deficit-covering bonds, electoral system reforms to correct disparities in vote values in the two Diet chambers, and early establishment of a national council to discuss changes to the social security system to realise integrated reforms of social security and taxation.

Noda asked for the LDP's and Komeito's cooperation to resolve these pending issues.

DPJ executive members predict the LDP and Komeito will eventually compromise. One senior DPJ member said, "If they refuse to participate in Diet deliberations, it will be the opposition parties who'll be criticised by the public."

At the party leaders' meeting, Noda refused to clarify when he will dissolve the lower house, though the LDP and Komeito demanded he specify a timeline.

If opposition parties boycott Diet deliberations or do not agree on the bills, the ruling camp is prepared to vote unilaterally and bulldoze them through the lower house, and then send them on to the upper house.

DPJ Acting Secretary General Jun Azumi referred in a speech in Matsuyama on Saturday to a possible scenario in which the opposition camp would vote down the special government bond bill in the upper house, where it holds a majority.

If the opposition camp votes down the bill, the action will be no different from "forcing the government to dissolve the lower house instead of providing tax money to local governments and members of the public," Azumi said.

Opposition parties have shown their readiness to refuse deliberations from the very beginning of the extraordinary session, and were becoming increasingly hostile.

In a speech in Kurayoshi, Tottori Prefecture, on Saturday, LDP Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba said: "They told others to honor their promises, and yet they don't keep their own. Is this acceptable?"

Ishiba criticised Noda for asking for the LDP's and Komeito's cooperation on a vote for bills related to the integrated reforms, but stubbornly refusing to dissolve the lower house this year.

Within the LDP, some members expect Noda will present a new proposal.

The LDP and Komeito are confident because they think they can win public support by emphasising the prime minister has dishonoured his promise to dissolve the lower house.

In a speech in Otsu on Saturday, LDP Acting Secretary General Yoshihide Suga said, "The prime minister isn't just a liar and a bad man, he's a sneaky bad man."

Should the ruling parties unilaterally pass the special government bond bill and other key bills through the lower house, some opposition members are considering voting them down in the upper house and bouncing them back to the lower chamber.

In this case, the ruling parties would have to pass the bills again in the lower house.

The opposition parties also demand Justice Minister Keishu Tanaka resign as soon as possible.

Tanaka's resignation seems to be unavoidable. But if he stays in the Cabinet, it is certain to further affect management of Diet affairs in the extraordinary session.


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