Hold policy debates at budget committees
With less than a week to go before the end of the ordinary Diet session, the question on many people's lips is: Will it be extended?
The People's New Party, a junior member of the ruling coalition, is pressing the Democratic Party of Japan-led administration to extend the session so the bill on the postal services reform can be passed into law.
The opposition parties also want the government to extend the session, but for a different reason. They want the Diet budget committees to discuss such issues as political funds scandals, including one involving former DPJ Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa, and the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture.
However, appeals for an extension of the Diet session are falling on deaf ears as far as the DPJ is concerned. The prevailing view in the party is that Prime Minister Naoto Kan should deliver his policy speech followed by interpellations on that speech by representatives of political parties, and the session should then be closed on June 16 as scheduled.
This view is based on the belief that it would be advantageous for the party to hold the House of Councillors election on July 11, by closing the Diet on schedule, while the public approval rating of the newly inaugurated Kan Cabinet remains high.
Q&A sessions needed
It is true the Diet session is nearing its end, but the nation's politics is in an abysmal state with the recent change in prime ministers.
Kan should first present the policy targets his Cabinet wants to aim for and explain what concrete actions are needed to implement them.
Also, to clarify points of contention in the upper house election, the ruling and opposition parties should debate their policies.
Interpellations on Kan's policy speech, which would be basically in the form of a "one-way" question-and-answer session, are hardly sufficient in providing a thorough understanding of the prime minister's political stance or diplomatic issues in general.
It would be much better to hold budget committee sessions so the views of both sides could be exchanged in a question-and-answer format.
A party that only considers its relative advantages in an election deprives its rivals of an opportunity to present their viewpoints.
This reminds us of political developments in the Taisho (1912-1926) and early Showa (1926-1989) eras, when major parties, including Rikken Seiyukai (the Friends of Constitutional Government Party) and Rikken Minseito (the Constitutional Democratic Party), alternately held the reins of government and dissolved the House of Representatives rather than answer questions posed by their rivals. This led the people to lose trust in party politics.
Diet debates will help voters
Like the latest development, prime ministers changed during the ordinary Diet session in 2000 with Yoshiro Mori assuming the top post. At that time, however, his policy speech and interpellations were followed by question-and-answer sessions at the budget committees of both houses of the Diet before the lower house was dissolved for a general election.
With a change in prime ministers, it is only reasonable for an administration to offer voters more information to decide, through Diet debates, how to cast their ballots. The DPJ should support the call for budget committee sessions.
The issue concerning the political funds scandals remains unanswered.
The Deliberative Council on Political Ethics at the Diet, which Ozawa had earlier showed his intention of attending to clarify the extent of the political funds scandal he is involved in, has yet to be held.
If the Diet closes without the council meeting, the Kan administration will be criticized for keeping everything in the dark.
When the DPJ was in the opposition camp, Kan tenaciously questioned the government during budget committee sessions. Kan is an experienced debater and will disgrace himself if he becomes defensive now that he is prime minister.
We hope the prime minister will go on the offensive and exchange verbal blows with representatives from the opposition parties.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 10, 2010)