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Saturday, Dec. 16, 2006
Education, defense bills passed
Opposition no-confidence motions fail to halt floor vote
By MASAMI ITO
The Upper House passed the bill to amend the education law to instill patriotism in schools and another one to turn the Defense Agency into a ministry after opposition parties made a last-ditch attempt Friday to stop the floor vote with no-confidence motions against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Cabinet.
The passage of the two contentious bills effectively ends all substantial deliberations for the remainder of the current Diet session, which was scheduled to end Friday.
The ruling bloc extended the session by four days to Dec. 19 the same day to cope with possible Diet disruptions, but the only task remaining for lawmakers is to close the current session
The revision to the basic education law drew criticism that it will force students and teachers to foster a narrow form of nationalism.
Meanwhile, the upgrading of the Defense Agency into a ministry will give agency officials more clout and esteem and make overseas deployments an integral part of the Self-Defense Forces' mission.
The no-confidence motions were submitted to the House of Representatives Friday morning, halting all other committee business, and the Upper House plenary session, in which the bill to revise the Fundamental Law of Education was later put to a vote.
The opposition parties' attempts only stopped Diet business until the late afternoon, by which time the Lower House had voted down the motions. The Upper House went on to pass the bill to create the Defense Ministry and the bill to revise the education law, which will instill Abe's notion of patriotism in the nation's classrooms.
The four opposition parties -- the Democratic Party of Japan, the Japanese Communist Party, the Social Democratic Party of Japan and the People's New Party -- also submitted a no-confidence motion against Foreign Minister Taro Aso and introduced a nonbinding motion to censure education minister Bunmei Ibuki in the Upper House. There was no vote on the motion against Aso.
The JCP and SDP also failed to get a censure motion against Abe passed in the Upper House.
To ensure passage of all the bills, the ruling bloc -- the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito -- requested the four-day extension of the extraordinary Diet Session.
During Friday's Lower House plenary session, DPJ acting President Naoto Kan said one of the reasons for the opposition parties's submission of the no-confidence motion against the Cabinet was the scandal over government-manipulated town meetings.
Abe, a staunch conservative, has placed the revision of the 1947 fundamental education law at the top of the agenda for the extraordinary Diet session. Under the revision, school curricula would include instruction on "patriotism."
Critics accuse ruling coalition lawmakers of ignoring the fact that the law 1947 law, drafted by Occupation authorities, was enacted to root out the narrow type of nationalism that characterized the prewar school curriculum.
"The Fundamental Law of Education was created out of soul-searching over the prewar Imperial rescript on education," said Shuji Ikuta, a professor of human rights education at Nara University of Education. "Patriotism should basically not be something to be forced upon (people)."