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Friday, Feb. 2, 2007

DPJ, allies boycott over Yanagisawa

Staff writer

Opposition parties boycotted the Thursday opening session of the House of Representative's powerful Budget Committee, saying they will not participate in Diet deliberations until health minister Hakuo Yanagisawa steps down for calling women "child-bearing machines."

Health Minister Hakuo Yanagisawa
Health Minister Hakuo Yanagisawa appears stressed Thursday in a Diet budget panel session. KYODO PHOTO

The Democratic Party of Japan, the Social Democratic Party and Kokumin Shinto (People's New Party) refused to attend the budget session, which had been called to begin debate on the fiscal 2006 extra budget.

Yanagisawa's remarks "affects the dignity of humankind, and (the DPJ) believes he is unqualified for the post of minister of health, labor and welfare," said Yoshiaki Takaki, Diet affairs chief of the DPJ, the largest opposition party. "How can we deliberate (the budget) with a minister like that?"

Yanagisawa made the incendiary statement Saturday in a speech about the declining birthrate and the strained social welfare and pension systems. He later apologized, and on Thursday, did so again, by saying, however, that he hurt "the most important part of womanhood."

"The number of women aged between 15 and 50 is fixed," Yanagisawa told an audience in Matsue, Shimane Prefecture. "Because the number of childbearing machines and devices is fixed, all we can ask for is for them to do their best per head."

The first budget committee session opened two hours later than scheduled with only members from the ruling bloc -- the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito. The one Japanese Communist Party member on the committee briefly attended.

However, before deliberations began, JCP member Kensho Sasaki walked out.

I "am against the ruling coalition proceeding with the committee debate" without members from the opposition parties, Sasaki told reporters.

LDP member Takeshi Noda said the boycott was a bad idea.

"They should not refuse to deliberate on the budget just because their demands have not been met," Noda said. Their action "runs counter to the principles of constitutional parliamentary politics."

On Tuesday, the DPJ, SDP and Kokumin Shinto submitted a statement to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe demanding he remove Yanagisawa from his ministerial post. The JCP made the same demand Wednesday in a separate statement to Abe.

Even among LDP lawmakers there are demands that Yanagisawa be removed from the Cabinet. Some members of the ruling party fear the incident could reduce already waning public support and hurt the LDP's prospects in the July House of Councilor's election.

However, Abe continues to say he will not remove Yanagisawa. The prime minister has said Yanagisawa has apologized and is deeply remorseful for the remark.

"I made a very inappropriate remark and deeply hurt the public and the most important part of womanhood," Yanagisawa told the budget committee. "I would like to take a moment to apologize again from the bottom of my heart."

See related stories:
Yanagisawa ouster calls linger
LDP launches lineup of Abe goods to boost sagging support
Opposition ranks want Yanagisawa axed before deliberating on budget
Yanagisawa sexist remark draws Abe ire

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The Japan Times

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