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Saturday, Dec. 5, 2009
Coalition freezes Japan Post share sale
By ALEX MARTIN
The first extraordinary Diet session held under the Cabinet of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama adjourned Friday after the ruling bloc used its majority to ram through the Upper House a law to freeze the state's planned sale of shares in Japan Post Holdings Co. and its banking and insurance units.
The bill, which aims to halt the postal privatization process, has been high on the Democratic Party of Japan-led administration's agenda, prompting the government to extend the Diet session by four days in order to accommodate the legislation. The bill cleared the Lower House Tuesday.
"Thanks to everyone's efforts, we were able to ride out the extraordinary Diet session," DPJ Diet affairs chief Kenji Yamaoka said during a meeting Friday with Lower House DPJ lawmakers.
"With the passage of the postal bill through the Upper House, we were able to legislate most of the bills we were aiming for" during the current Diet session, Yamaoka said.
"Let's now face next year's regular Diet session," he said.
The 173rd extraordinary Diet session, which convened on Oct. 26, lasted 40 days, during which 10 of the 12 government-backed bills were passed. The session officially wrapped up after an afternoon Lower House plenary session.
The law to halt the sale is part of the government's efforts to review the postal privatization reforms spearheaded by former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of the Liberal Democratic Party and reorganize postal operations under new management.
LDP ranks abstained from voting in the Upper House in protest of the ruling bloc's refusal to hold a debate between Hatoyama and LDP President Sadakazu Tanigaki. The LDP has also called for, in vain, a probe into Hatoyama's political fund irregularities.
"This is the first step in reviewing" postal privatization, postal reform minister Shizuka Kamei told reporters Friday after the bill was passed.
Kamei, who also heads coalition partner Kokumin Shinto (People's New Party), has been an archfoe of the privatization process spearheaded by Koizumi, and the passage of the bill is regarded as his party's priority.
"We will submit a basic bill (on how to specifically reform postal services) to the ordinary session next year," Kamei said.
He said the government will figure out how the postal operations can contribute to revitalizing regional economies and incorporate the steps into the bill.
The government led by Hatoyama has claimed that the postal business has been distorted by the Koizumi reforms and that the current structure of the Japan Post group must be revised to better serve the public.
The LDP-led government began the 10-year process of privatizing state-run postal services in October 2007, creating four companies to provide mail delivery, over-the-counter services, and banking and insurance operations under a holding company.
Japan Post, wholly owned by the government, launched a new management team in late October, under a new president, Jiro Saito.
But his appointment to the top post, decided by Kamei, has drawn criticism as it runs counter to the DPJ's policy of banning bureaucrats from taking up posts with government affiliates.
Information from Kyodo added