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Thursday, April 26, 2012
Stalemate in the Upper House
The Upper House on Friday passed censure motions against Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka and infrastructure and transport Minister Takeshi Maeda. The nonbinding motions were submitted by the Liberal Democratic Party, Komeito and two smaller parties.
The LDP at first said it would boycott all committee deliberations in the chamber, but on Monday it decided to attend sessions of a special committee to discuss a bill to raise the consumption tax. Komeito made it clear from the start that it will boycott committee deliberations in which either Mr. Tanaka or Mr. Maeda attends.
At any rate, deliberations in the Upper House are likely to be greatly delayed. But the Noda administration appears to have won the battle of wills because the LDP changed its stance. Still, both the ruling and opposition blocs should realize that if the Diet fails to pass legislation needed to help people go about their daily lives as smoothly as possible, the distrust of national politics will deepen further.
Mr. Tanaka was censured for his lack of knowledge about defense-related matters. Mr. Maeda was censured for signing a document asking for voters' support of a particular candidate in the mayoral election in Gero, Gifu Prefecture. It is suspected that his act violated the Public Offices Election Law.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is expected to support his two Cabinet ministers; firing them would make it appear he buckled in the face of opposition pressure. But he should also realize there are now questions raised concerning his ability to properly evaluate the capabilities and qualifications of the two Cabinet ministers.
Both the ruling and opposition parties should strengthen efforts to enable the Diet to take action on important bills in a timely fashion, including a bill to float bonds for the fiscal 2012 budget — which relies on bonds for about 40 percent of its revenues — and a bill to establish the Nuclear Regulatory Agency to replace the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency. In addition, the ruling and opposition forces have not reached agreement on the reapportionment of Lower House seats. The Supreme Court in March 2011 found the Lower House seat distribution unconstitutional.
Both the Noda Cabinet and the LPD think the consumption tax should be raised. But they should consider the wisdom of raising the tax in the midst of longtime deflation. It could derail the Japanese economy and decrease the total tax revenues.