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Friday, Nov. 28, 2008
Diet extended for key bills as DPJ relents
By MASAMI ITO
The government and the Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling bloc officially ordered an extension to the current extraordinary Diet session until Dec. 25 to secure passage of two key bills.
The special antiterrorism bill enabling the Maritime Self-Defense Force to continue its refueling activities in the Indian Ocean and a bill to bolster the banking sector are currently stuck in the opposition-controlled Upper House, where the Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition force, has been refusing to hold a vote on them.
"The main reason (why an extension is necessary) is to secure the approval of the special antiterrorism bill and the bill to strengthen financial functions. But the passage of neither of the bills is clear," Prime Minister Taro Aso was quoted as saying by LDP Secretary General Hiroyuki Hosoda.
According to Article 59 of the Constitution, the Lower House can hold a second vote to pass a bill if the Upper House rejects it or does not hold a vote on a bill within 60 days of receiving it.
Because the antiterrorism bill was sent to the House of Councilors Oct. 21, a second vote cannot be held before Dec. 20.
Meanwhile, the financial bill can only be voted on again after Jan. 5, so the ruling bloc has been hoping the DPJ will relent amid the international financial crisis and hold a vote before year's end.
As the DPJ has indicated it plans to cooperate in holding a vote on the financial bill in the opposition-controlled Upper House by Dec. 25, it now seems certain the current session will not be extended into January.
The ruling parties had been considering extending the session again to around Jan. 5 and ramming the bill through the Lower House in the event the DPJ refused to vote on it.
Initially, the Diet had been expected to end Sunday, as the DPJ had been cooperating with government bills, hoping Aso would in return dissolve the House of Representatives and call a snap election as soon as the key bills were approved.
However, the global financial situation led Aso to change his mind over holding an early election, and he announced at the end of October he would focus on economic measures instead.
The delay was harshly criticized by the opposition parties and the DPJ began to shift to more aggressive Diet tactics. Last week, DPJ leader Ichiro Ozawa told Aso that unless he submits the second extra budget to the current Diet session, the DPJ won't vote on the two bills. A second supplementary budget is necessary to implement the government-proposed ¥2 trillion cash handout program.
On Tuesday, however, Aso revealed that the second supplementary budget will be submitted to the next ordinary Diet session to be convened in early January.
Information from Kyodo added