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Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2008
DPJ to boycott debate in Diet on key legislation
Opposition responds to Aso's refusal to commit to budget deadline
By MASAMI ITO
Democratic Party of Japan leader Ichiro Ozawa decided Monday to boycott Diet discussions on key bills after an emergency meeting with Prime Minister Taro Aso failed to produce substantive results.
In their first one-on-one meeting, Ozawa urged Aso to submit the second fiscal 2008 supplementary budget to the Diet before the extraordinary session ends Nov. 30. But Aso didn't give a clear answer.
The development dashes hopes that an Upper House committee will vote on the antiterrorism bill Tuesday to continue the Maritime Self-Defense Force's refueling mission in the Indian Ocean.
Even though the DPJ does not support the supplementary budget plan, it switched to pressure tactics after Aso said last week he may put off calling a Lower House election until the Diet clears next year's budget in the spring. The DPJ has been demanding a general election sooner.
Ozawa told a news conference later in the day that unless Aso submits the supplementary budget, the prime minister would be going against his pledge to prioritize economic measures rather than hold an election.
"Isn't Aso's statement to place greater importance on the economy and economic measures rather than an election a commitment he made to the public?" Ozawa said. "It is truly regrettable that Aso has yet to even try to implement this public commitment with only two weeks left in the Diet session — I find it hard to understand."
The largest opposition party is opposed to the supplementary budget but apparently wants the administration to submit the bill so the two parties can hold a thorough debate.
In response to Ozawa's demand, Aso said he could not promise to submit the supplementary budget during this session.
"We are right in the middle of compiling the budget at the moment and I cannot give an explicit answer as to when we will be ready to submit it," Aso told reporters separately, but he added it could still be submitted before the end of the current legislative session.
Unable to get a straight answer, Ozawa and other DPJ executives have decided to use delaying tactics in the Diet to slow down various "problem bills," such as the antiterrorism bill.
"Until the prime minister and the Cabinet propose the budget . . . we will continue to hold thorough deliberations in Diet committees on problems bills," Ozawa said.
Ozawa, however, said if Aso submits the second supplementary budget, he has no intention of drawing out deliberations even though the party is against it — a promise he said he made to the prime minister.
"When I say I will do something, I will do it properly — I keep my promises," Ozawa stressed.