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Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2008

Aso likely to extend legislative session


Staff writer

The Democratic Party of Japan's reluctance to participate in Diet proceedings or vote on some bills increased the likelihood that the ruling bloc will extend the extra Diet session beyond its Nov. 30 close.

The DPJ boycotted Upper House sessions Tuesday after DPJ leader Ichiro Ozawa failed to persuade Prime Minister Taro Aso, in an emergency meeting the night before, to submit the second supplementary budget for a Diet vote by Nov. 30 and pave the way for an early general election.

"Depending on (the DPJ's) attitude, the current Diet session should be extended," Aso told reporters in the evening, noting the importance of passing key bills.

The DPJ intends to avoid voting on some proposed legislation until Aso's Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling bloc submits the second supplementary budget, which is aimed at financing an economic stimulus package amid the global financial crisis.

Two key bills the DPJ is now dragging its feet on include the antiterrorism bill, which would extend the Maritime Self-Defense Force's refueling mission in the Indian Ocean, and a bill that would allow the government to inject public funds into financial institutions to bolster their capital bases.

With Nov. 30 fast approaching, the Diet session will probably be extended to ensure passage of the two key ruling bloc bills.

The DPJ's sudden confrontational approach, after earlier indicating it would allow the antiterrorism bill to be put to a vote Tuesday in the opposition-controlled Upper House, is an attempt to force Aso into dissolving the Lower House and calling an election. Aso and others in the LDP have meanwhile indicated an election will not be held until at least spring, after the second supplementary budget is passed presumably in the next Diet session.

During a DPJ meeting, Secretary General Yukio Hatoyama again urged Aso to call an election.

The Aso "Cabinet has not been given the public's trust through an election and that's why it hasn't been able to take any bold steps," Hatoyama said. "The best way to take bold measures is to hold an election immediately."

With the DPJ boycott, passage of the antiterrorism bill is in limbo.

Extending the Indian Ocean mission, which expires Jan. 15, is a key goal for Aso, and the ruling bloc will be forced to extend the session if the DPJ continues to drag its feet.

DPJ Diet affairs chief Kenji Yamaoka stressed that party ranks were not boycotting deliberations, but would "avoid voting on" certain bills.

"We fully understand the importance of the rules in the Diet, but we think that protecting the lives of the public is even more important," Yamaoka said. "We will deliberate on bills and not boycott sessions. Regarding votes, however, we will, in principle, wait until the second supplementary budget is submitted."

During their closed meeting Monday night, Ozawa demanded that Aso submit the second extra budget to the Diet.

"Aso said he postponed the election because he had to implement economic measures and not create a political vacuum," Yamaoka said. "If that's true, he should submit the budget immediately."



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