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Friday, Nov. 2, 2012
Urgent tasks for the Diet
Following Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's policy speech on Monday in the Lower House, a period of questions and answers started in the current extraordinary Diet session on Wednesday. Political parties should refrain from bickering and speedily act on two urgent issues — the passage of a bill to float deficit-covering bonds to cover some 40 percent of the fiscal 2012 budget and the enactment of bills to rectify the value of a vote between depopulated rural areas and populated urban areas for Lower and Upper house elections. The Diet must take into consideration the possibililty that if elections are held without reapportionment, the Supreme Court may rule that the election results are null and void, and may order that new elections be held.
For his part, Mr. Noda should present the goals of his administration at this stage in a concrete manner. The opposition parties, on the other hand, need to make efforts to deepen discussion on policy matters. Although bills to raise the consumption tax had been enacted in the previous Diet session, discussions should be held on whether it is wise to go ahead with the consumption tax rate hike given the weakness of the economic recovery. All the political parties also should not forget to take up such issues as nuclear power generation, the need to compile a supplementary budget to stimulate the economy and foreign policy in East Asia in the midst of the diplomatic crisis between Japan and China over the Senkaku Islands.
The No. 1 opposition Liberal Democratic Party and the No. 3 opposition party Komeito, which together with the ruling Democratic Party of Japan had passed the consumption tax hike bills in the previous Diet session, appear intent on having Mr. Noda promise that he will dissolve the Lower House by the end of this year because they believe that Mr. Noda, during a meeting of the leaders of the three parties in August, promised an early dissolution of the chamber as a quid pro quo for the LDP and Komeito's cooperation to pass the bills.
But the LDP and Komeito should pay serious attention to the fact that if the bond flotation bill is not enacted, the government will run out of budget funds soon and people's lives will be greatly affected. All the political parties should take care to ensure that the discussions on the Lower House dissolution do not upstage this and other important issues.
At the outset of the current Diet session, the opposition forces did not allow Mr. Noda to deliver his policy speech in the Upper House on the grounds that the chamber in the previous Diet session had passed a censure motion against him. Such behavior is constitutionally problematic because the censure motion has no legal basis and will only strengthen support for the view held by some people that the Upper House is unnecessary and should be abolished. The opposition should refrain from setting a poor precedent and allow Mr. Noda to deliver his policy speech.