Govt must convene Diet swiftly and not abdicate responsibility
Moves are afoot that may lead to postponement of talks between the leaders of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan and the two major opposition parties, the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito, as well as delay the convocation of an extraordinary Diet session that was scheduled for this autumn.
This undoubtedly runs contrary to Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's stated goal of realizing "politics capable of making resolute decisions."
The LDP's new president, Shinzo Abe, met Komeito chief Natsuo Yamaguchi on Friday, and they agreed to pressure Noda to dissolve the House of Representatives for a general election this year, based on the prime minister's pledge in August to do so "sometime soon."
In the meeting, Yamaguchi said voting and vote counting for a general election should be completed no later than Dec. 9, a date he considered a "commonsense" time limit.
The heads of the two major opposition parties also confirmed they would press the prime minister in a meeting of the three parties' chiefs to clearly explain how he would pass a bill submitted by the government to enable the issuance of deficit-covering bonds.
Govt, DPJ bear more blame
Noda's pledge to dissolve the lower house soon was part of the three-party agreement reached over comprehensive reform of the social security and tax systems. We see the demand made by the LDP and Komeito for this pledge to be fulfilled as reasonable.
A delay in passing the bond bill would force the government to cut back on spending called for in the state budget, which could adversely impact local government finances and people's lives. The opposition camp, therefore, should not make approval of the bond bill contingent on dissolving the lower house.
However, more problematic by far is how the government and the DPJ have dealt with these matters.
It should be noted that it was Noda's idea to hold a meeting of the leaders of the three parties, as he wanted to "reconfirm the three-party agreement" on social security and tax reform.
However, the prime minister and his party have failed even to sound out the LDP and Komeito about the feasibility of a meeting of the heads of the three parties, despite a full week having passed since Abe became LDP president. We feel the DPJ sorely lacks the sense of responsibility required of a ruling party.
Moves by DPJ lawmakers to leave the party have continued even after the party's leadership election last month. If eight more DPJ Diet members were to bolt, the ruling bloc would lose its majority in the lower house.
The party also fears that if an extraordinary Diet session were convened without an agreement in place with the LDP and Komeito on key issues, the ruling camp would be unable to defeat a no-confidence motion against the Cabinet, thus forcing the prime minister to dissolve the lower house.
No excuse for procrastination
The revelation that a prefectural DPJ chapter headed by Justice Minister Keishu Tanaka received donations from a company run by a Taiwan national has dealt a fresh blow to the Noda administration.
Earlier, the DPJ faced two similar scandals where political donations from foreign nationals, which are banned by the Political Funds Control Law, were accepted by former Prime Minister Naoto Kan and Seiji Maehara, the current state minister in charge of national policy.
The fact that Tanaka was appointed to the Cabinet without sufficient investigation into whether he was free of such problems makes us question the DPJ's capacity to govern.
The government choosing not to convene a Diet session for fear of being brought to task by the opposition over these issues would be a grave mistake in terms of priorities.
No time must be wasted in passing the bill to allow deficit-covering bonds to be issued, as well as legislation to rectify vote-value disparities in lower house elections. These urgent political tasks must be accomplished through an extraordinary Diet session as early as possible.
The Noda Cabinet should not be allowed to put off convening the Diet while trying to shift the blame for being unable to issue deficit-covering bonds to the opposition and asserting the lower house cannot be dissolved because of the "state of unconstitutionality" of the electoral system.
It is questionable whether any administration that fails to address policy matters and attempts to delay dissolution of the lower house is fit to survive.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 6, 2012)