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Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2007
FIRST OPPOSITION PRESIDENT
Eda takes helm of Upper House
By MASAMI ITO
For the first time in nearly half a century, the House of Councilors has an opposition lawmaker as its president.
Satsuki Eda, 66, of the Democratic Party of Japan, was voted in unanimously as a four-day extraordinary Diet session opened Tuesday. His installation follows the opposition camp's capture of the Upper House majority in the July 29 election and the DPJ emerging as the chamber's largest force.
"I will strive hard so that the Diet is run based on justice and fairness," Eda told the Upper House after he was elected. "And together with every lawmaker (in the Upper House), I would also like to do everything in my power to ensure that the chamber lives up to the expectations of the public."
Since the ruling Liberal Democratic Party was established in 1955, this is the first time it has fallen from being the No. 1 force in the chamber. The LDP has never before had to cede the presidency despite previous losses of majority control, even in coalitions.
DPJ lawmaker Takeo Nishioka, a former education minister, was chosen as chairman of the key Upper House steering committee.
The Upper House president has wide-ranging authority, including the power to open plenary sessions. This will allow the DPJ to control deliberations in the chamber.
Its control of the upper chamber will also affect personnel appointments that require approval from both houses, including the governor of the Bank of Japan.
Now the second-largest party in the chamber, the LDP put forward Akiko Santo as vice president. She also was voted in unanimously.
In line with tradition, both Eda and Santo dropped their party affiliations as a gesture of neutrality.
The Upper House "has entered unfamiliar political territory, and I think that the public has high expectations for the Upper House lawmakers," Eda said.
Later in the day, the DPJ held a meeting at its headquarters in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, where leader Ichiro Ozawa once again expressed joy over the opposition's sweeping victory in the election.
"(The DPJ) has realized something that has never happened before — the ruling opposition parties have reversed, the DPJ has become the No. 1 party (in the Upper House) and Eda was elected as president," Ozawa said. "We must recognize the reality strongly and accurately . . . and the reality is that the result (of the election) will have a deep political impact."
Ozawa stressed that the DPJ must fulfill its promise to the public to not engage in any backroom dealings with the LDP-New Komeito ruling bloc and the government.
"We promised the public that we would change the ruling coalition, which has been ignoring the public's lives and (conducting) power politics," Ozawa said. "Conspiring with the ruling coalition to get halfhearted results is a thing of the past. The times have changed. The public no longer wants that."
Amid public outrage at the ruling bloc over the pension record fiasco, the DPJ is expected to submit a bill to require that pension insurance premiums only be used for pension payments. The current law allows use of the money in other areas, including education and publicity.
The DPJ has also said it will vote against extending the special law enabling naval support for the multinational force in Afghanistan.