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Saturday, May 27, 2006
Ruling coalition, DPJ submit own bills for referendum
By MASAMI ITO
The ruling bloc -- the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito -- and the Democratic Party of Japan submitted separate bills Friday to the Diet with their separate visions for procedures for holding a national referendum to amend the Constitution.
The ruling bloc had tried to secure the support of its bill from the leading opposition party but they could not agree on several key points.
The biggest difference in the bills is that the ruling coalition has limited the procedures to those for amending the Constitution, whereas the DPJ bill covers all major state issues.
Another point of disagreement is the voting age. The ruling bloc wants it to be 20, while the DPJ has put 18 in its bill.
The biggest argument had been over media restrictions. The ruling bloc had included restrictions on reporting during a referendum in drafts of its bill.
However, a loud outcry from the media and opposition parties forced the deletion of the restrictions from the final bill.
LDP lawmaker Okiharu Yasuoka, who heads the group that wrote the ruling coalition's bill, was enthusiastic about finally submitting the legislation, which he said took about eight years to create.
"Times have changed immensely since the postwar era," Yasuoka told reporters after the bill was submitted. "I believe we have reached a point in time when we should aim for a new basic law that fits the new world, the new era."
Yasuoka said that while the issue is delicate and must be carefully deliberated, he aims for the bill to be passed during the current Diet session, which ends in mid-June.
DPJ lawmaker Yukio Edano, who heads his party's team on the issue, said the bills will be the most important ones debated in the Diet since the end of World War II.
Edano was concerned that some members of the LDP believed that enactment of a referendum law would automatically lead to a revision of the Constitution.
"That is completely out of the question," Edano sad.