Ruling, opposition blocs must rise above politicking
The ordinary session of the Diet, which has lasted more than seven months, adjourns on Saturday.
Relative to its long duration, the session cannot be considered very productive.
There is an urgent need for both the ruling and opposition blocs to work out reforms of the legislature to break away from "politics incapable of making decisions."
The most important achievement in this Diet session was the enactment of a set of laws for comprehensive reform of the social security and tax systems.
It is significant that the long-overdue task of raising the consumption tax rate has been accomplished through cooperation among the Democratic Party of Japan, the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito.
In a news conference on Friday, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda declared, "The stalemate of politics can surely be surmounted only if we politicians have a strong sense of responsibility and resolve, seeing things from a broad perspective."
He is right to say so.
Cooperation among the DPJ, the LDP and Komeito, however, has been limited to a very narrow range, leaving a pile of Diet business unaddressed.
DPJ leadership clumsy
The passage rate of fresh government-sponsored bills during this ordinary session was 66 percent, the second-lowest in the past 20 years. Both the ruling and opposition parties must do serious soul-searching about this.
The impasse cannot be attributed only to the divided state of the Diet, with the opposition controlling the House of Councillors while the ruling camp has a majority in the House of Representatives.
As LDP President Sadakazu Tanigaki has pointed out, imbroglios within the DPJ have hampered steering of state affairs.
There were some conspicuous instances of poor management of Diet affairs by the DPJ leadership during the session. For instance, the issue of Diet approval of personnel appointments for a nuclear regulatory commission has been left unrealized due to the DPJ's clumsy handling of the matter.
After the government decided on candidates for the chairman and other members of the commission, one objection after another arose within the DPJ. The party leadership, fearful of internal rebellion, postponed votes on the candidates in both the lower and upper chambers' plenary sessions. The DPJ should be criticized for lacking awareness of its duty to shore up the government.
Delay in launching the nuclear regulatory commission, which is to be in charge of revamping the administration for ensuring nuclear safety, can only raise more obstacles to resuming operations of idled nuclear power plants.
Under the circumstances, Noda has expressed his intention to appoint the commission's chairman and other members without Diet approval, based on a provision of the law for the establishment of the commission.
Such action is inevitable.
Opposition also culpable
Dealing with the problem of the disparity in the weight of votes in lower house elections, which the Supreme Court has ruled as being in a "state of unconstitutionality," has also been put off.
The DPJ's attempt to focus on a bill that it prepared unilaterally without any effort to obtain support from the opposition has only aggravated the problem.
But the opposition, too, should be held heavily responsible for throwing the Diet into confusion.
The opposition bloc passed censure motions against the prime minister and two other Cabinet members, subsequently boycotting Diet deliberations and stalling Diet business for a long period.
What the current opposition has done is much the same as what the DPJ did when it was in opposition. How long will opposition parties continue to engage in such futile showdowns with the government?
The opposition must refrain from using censure motions, which have no binding power, as means of political maneuvering.
The bill for issuing deficit-covering government bonds has been scrapped because of resistance from opposition parties.
As a result, the government has been unable to secure revenue sources for budgetary appropriations and has had to refrain from implementing parts of the budget, including allocation of tax grants to local governments. This is a situation that can adversely affect people's lives.
Both the ruling and opposition camps make a point of engaging in politicking for the sake of their own selfish interests. This must stop.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 8, 2012)