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Thursday, June 19, 2003

Opposition parties boycott Diet over 40-day extension

Staff writer

The four opposition parties made good on their threat and jointly boycotted all Diet proceedings Wednesday to protest the ruling bloc's decision to extend the current Diet session to July 28.

The 40-day extension was formally approved Tuesday by the House of Representatives thanks to the majority held by the ruling coalition.

However, the opposition's hardline stance has thrown a wrench into the deliberation schedule for a government-sponsored bill to dispatch Self-Defense Forces elements to help in the reconstruction of Iraq.

Yoshihiko Noda, Diet affairs chief of the Democratic Party of Japan, told a news conference Wednesday that his party has no intention of negotiating Diet scheduling with the ruling bloc this week. The DPJ is the largest opposition party.

The only possible exception to the boycott are meetings of a Lower House special committee on policies concerning Okinawa, as an alleged rape case involving a U.S. Marine has emerged as a diplomatic issue between the United States and Japan, Noda said.

The Liberal Democratic Party, New Komeito and the New Conservative Party had sought an agreement with the opposition camp to convene a plenary session of the Lower House on Friday to explain the Iraq reconstruction assistance bill.

Lower House Speaker Tamisuke Watanuki criticized remarks by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Tuesday that the opposition boycott of Diet deliberations "does not make sense."

Koizumi, who was a little more animated than usual Tuesday night after a dinner with the president of the Marshall Islands, barked at opposition parties: "There's no way they can do such a thing. They will criticize us later for not having had enough debate (on the bill), so they shouldn't boycott the deliberations.

"It does not make sense. Their boycotting tactics won't work," Koizumi said.

Opposition parties were furious over Koizumi's remarks and Watanuki summoned Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda to the Diet on Wednesday afternoon to tell him that the prime minister should not say things that hamper Diet deliberation.

"It was not a good thing to say," Fukuda admitted at a news conference later. "I told the prime minister that he should be careful and he was sorry for his outburst."

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The Japan Times

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