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Tuesday, June 2, 2009
DPJ submits bill to cut back on culture of hereditary politicians
By ALEX MARTIN
The Democratic Party of Japan submitted a bill to the Lower House Monday aimed at cutting back on what many in the public believe is the unfair advantage enjoyed by so-called hereditary politicians.
The revision proposed by the largest opposition party to the Political Funds Control Law would restrict relatives within three degrees of kinship — up to nieces or nephews — of retired or deceased Diet members from inheriting a seat and running in the same electoral district as their predecessor.
One-third of ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers are said to have inherited their father's or grandfather's constituencies, as well as their campaign machines and political funding sources.
The DPJ bill also calls for a complete ban on donations by corporations that have signed a contract worth more than ¥100 million with the government or municipalities, and would prohibit companies from purchasing party tickets for politicians' fundraising activities.
Instead, individual donations of up to ¥50,000 to candidates, political parties and support groups would become exempt from taxation, according to the DPJ proposals.
"Although there was much discussion (about the bill) within the party, we were able to reach a final decision," said DPJ Secretary General Katsuya Okada. "We hope the ruling coalition will promptly comply with deliberations and enact the bill, whether or not this Diet session is extended."
Corporate donations have been a hot topic because of the recent fundraising scandal that led to the arrest of former DPJ President Ichiro Ozawa's chief secretary for allegedly violating the Political Funds Control Law. The scandal forced Ozawa to step down from his post in May.
During Diet debate last Wednesday, DPJ President Yukio Hatoyama asked Prime Minister Taro Aso for the ruling coalition's cooperation in enacting the DPJ-sponsored bill. Aso, however, retorted by criticizing Hatoyama for attempting to deflect public attention from the Ozawa scandal.
The ruling coalition in turn plans to submit revised versions of the Political Party Public Subsidy Law and the Public Offices Election Law during the current session.