DPJ-LDP talks needed to end Diet impasse
The prospects for passage of bills for integrated reform of the social security and tax systems through the Diet are doubtful.
This is because of the high-handed attitude of the Liberal Democratic Party, which refuses to help enact the bills unless Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda gives assurance he will dissolve the House of Representatives for a general election immediately after the bills are passed.
The lower house passed the bills after some modifications following a three-party agreement among the Democratic Party of Japan, the LDP and New Komeito that the bills were needed to rehabilitate the government's finances.
It is intolerable for the LDP to treat the three-party accord so lightly at this late date. The bills must be enacted swiftly through a vote in the House of Councillors.
"To accomplish the task of carrying out the integrated reform, we should seek a public mandate to rebuild momentum," LDP President Sadakazu Tanigaki said.
He indicated that if the LDP's demand for dissolution of the lower chamber was not met, the party would submit a no-confidence motion against the Cabinet or a censure motion against the prime minister as early as Tuesday.
Public won't understand
The LDP is using a tactic in which it holds the reform bills--the national interest--hostage as it is making support for them contingent on the prime minister pledging to dissolve the lower house.
Should a censure motion against Noda or a no-confidence motion against his administration be submitted, the Diet would almost certainly be thrown into turmoil and the bills would face the danger of being scrapped.
Besides the disintegration of the three-party agreement, confidence in Japan's political system would evaporate both at home and abroad.
In a comment on the LDP's hard-line stance, Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi quite reasonably pointed out that the largest opposition party should be "more circumspect about what consequences would ensue."
The LDP's stance is hardly likely to gain the understanding of most people.
The party must think carefully about the wisdom of submitting a no-confidence motion against the Cabinet. And the idea of using a censure motion, which has no binding power under the Constitution, as a means of toppling an administration would set a bad precedent in the nation's politics.
"The three-party agreement is highly important, and I'm determined to do my utmost to enact the bills," Noda said.
If he really wants to maintain his resolve, the prime minister will have no other recourse but to try to break the impasse through face-to-face talks with Tanigaki.
One major factor behind the current imbroglio is the lack of sincerity on the part of the prime minister and other DPJ executives.
DPJ move belated
In his talks with Nobuaki Koga, president of the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo), Noda expressed his desire to stay in office for the compilation of next fiscal year's state budget. This struck a nerve in the LDP, which wants the lower house dissolved soon after the passage of the tax and security reform bills.
The DPJ leadership has been cautious about agreeing on an early vote on the bills for fear that a number of legislators could bolt the party.
It earlier called for a vote on Aug. 20, arguing that the bills should be voted on at the same time as votes on bills to enable the government to issue deficit-covering bonds and for lower house electoral system reform to rectify the disparity in the weight of votes between the most and least represented constituencies.
Although all this legislation is important, the DPJ's argument can only be seen as a pretext for putting off a vote on the social security and tax reform bills.
The DPJ has finally changed its stance, as it is now making overtures to the LDP to have the relevant committees vote on the tax and social security bills on Wednesday. There can be no denying the DPJ's move is belated.
One thing must not happen: The DPJ-LDP brawling and bickering must not lead to scrapping of the reform bills.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 7, 2012)