No room for arrogance in Diet affairs
The ruling and opposition parties have agreed to open Budget Committee meetings in both Diet chambers during an extraordinary session to be convened at the end of this month.
It is unusual for the legislature to call Budget Committee sessions so soon after a House of Councillors election. However, the ruling camp has bowed to strong demands from the opposition bloc to hold such discussions.
These meetings should have been convened during the last ordinary Diet session--namely, before the July 11 upper house election. This would have enabled Prime Minister Naoto Kan to wage a battle of words with the opposition parties for the first time since he took office.
However, the ruling Democratic Party of Japan rejected opposition demands for Budget Committee sessions, and refused to extend the last Diet session. The DPJ's move apparently reflected its belief that the party would fare better in the election if the poll took place while the Cabinet was buoyed by high popular support generated by Kan's replacement of his unpopular predecessor, Yukio Hatoyama.
The DPJ also refused to open a plenary session of the upper chamber, turning a deaf ear, in effect, to a no-confidence motion submitted against upper house President Satsuki Eda by the opposition camp. The DPJ feared the motion would be narrowly adopted.
The DPJ's high-handed approach to Diet management was a ploy repeatedly used by the party's preceding top brass led by former party Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa and others.
Move came too late
The DPJ's concession to opposition demands for Budget Committee meetings comes too late. The ruling party should seriously reflect on its conduct in steering Diet sessions. The DPJ must end its overbearing attitude toward the opposition bloc and, instead, seek a dialogue with the rival camp.
A spate of politics-and-money scandals involving some DPJ members--most notably Ozawa--remain unresolved. During its days in power, the Liberal Democratic Party accepted opposition demands for scandal-tainted party members, including former prime ministers, to testify in the Diet about their problems. Given this, the DPJ has no reason to keep rejecting demands for its scandal-hit lawmakers and others to be summoned before the legislature.
The DPJ forcibly arranged for a plenary session of the House of Representatives to vote on a postal reform bill after only six hours of discussions on the legislation at a lower house committee. The bill was eventually scrapped in the last Diet session. Nevertheless, the DPJ should stop slighting Diet debates.
The DPJ's defeat in the July 11 election created a divided Diet. This has made it difficult for the DPJ to bulldoze bills through the Diet.
These circumstances have apparently encouraged the DPJ to maintain a low profile in dealing with the opposition camp. What is truly required of the DPJ, however, is to end its arrogant Diet management, an approach resulting from its numerical strength in the lower house.
Opposition must play ball
Meanwhile, we hope the opposition parties will behave sensibly. While an opposition party, the DPJ repeatedly rejected government proposals on personnel affairs at important institutions subject to Diet approval. In those days, the LDP-New Komeito coalition had an overwhelming majority in the lower house, while the upper chamber was controlled by the opposition camp.
The LDP and other opposition parties should not act out of spiteful retaliation toward the DPJ under the circumstances.
The upper house will elect its new president and vice president at the outset of the forthcoming extraordinary Diet session.
The opposition camp has insisted Eda not be reelected as upper house president, saying he failed to steer the chamber fairly.
However, the opposition parties' bid to choose a new upper house president from their camp is little more than an abuse of their numerical strength for deciding Diet matters. This would run counter to the long-running practice of selecting the upper house president from the predominant party in the chamber--currently the DPJ--and choosing the vice president from the second-largest party in the house.
The election of the upper house president and vice president will be the first test of whether the Diet can become a citadel of cooperation between the ruling and opposition parties. We hope both sides will properly discuss the selection of the upper chamber's president and vice president.
The upcoming Budget Committee sessions are expected to focus on such issues as the politics-and-money scandals and Kan's recent remarks about a possible increase in the consumption tax rate. We hope lawmakers will engage in lively verbal battles during the all-too-brief extraordinary session.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 23, 2010)