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2008年6月21日 (土)


(Jun. 21, 2008) The Yomiuri Shimbun

Political parties must end tug-of-war

通常国会閉幕 政争ばかりの国会はご免だ(6月21日付・読売社説)


An ordinary Diet session without precedent in the postwar period effectively came to an end Friday.


Under a divided Diet--with the House of Representatives dominated by ruling parties and the House of Councillors controlled by opposition parties--ruling and opposition camps battled fiercely over such issues as road-related tax revenues, the appointment of the Bank of Japan governor and a new health insurance system for people aged 75 and older. Infighting over such issues left the Diet in chaos.



The next Diet session is likely to be convened as early as late August. The question is whether an excessively confrontational Diet can mutate into a policy-focused Diet.



Both ruling and opposition lawmakers were groping for a way to handle the unusual situation when the Diet session opened.



In late January, the ruling and opposition camps accepted a deal brokered by the lower house speaker and the upper house president that stipulated that a conclusion be reached on the budget and a set of tax bills by the end of fiscal 2007. But this agreement was broken when the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan started employing delaying tactics in Diet deliberations.


Regarding the nomination of a new Bank of Japan governor, which requires Diet approval, government proposals were rejected twice by the upper house.


The budget and tax systems, which have a very direct impact on people's daily lives, and the appointment of a position that is key to the nation's international credibility all became subject to a political tug-of-war.


Under the initiative of Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, the government and ruling parties moved to integrate road-related special tax revenues into the general account from fiscal 2009. But they failed to obtain agreement from the opposition camp.



Bills forced through


The ruling parties took to forcing through bills, including one to reinstate the provisionally raised gasoline tax rate, twice resorting to a second vote using their two-thirds majority in the lower house. Including the passage of the law to allow the Maritime Self-Defense Force to resume its refueling operations in the Indian Ocean, which was passed in the previous extraordinary Diet session on a second vote in the lower house, marking the first time this procedure had been used in 57 years, there have thus been three laws passed with a second vote in the lower house under the Fukuda administration.



This way of passing legislation is unproblematic, as it is in line with constitutional provisions. It is the ruling parties' prerogative to exercise the right to such votes whenever necessary.


(unproblematic=問題をはらんでいない、何の問題もない)  (prerogative=特権)


Poor management


But it is undeniable that Fukuda and others in his administration caused confusion to grow by letting the opposition make all the running over the road-related tax bills and the appointment of the Bank of Japan chief.


On June 11, the upper house passed a motion to censure the prime minister for the first time in postwar Diet history. The DPJ had considered submitting such a censure motion several times in the past, but always decided not to for fear that it would draw public criticism for being obstructive. In the end, the censure motion was seen as little more than a ritual gesture at the end of the Diet session.



Even in these circumstances, the ruling and opposition camps made some concessions to pass important bills, such as one on civil service reform and another to allow the use of space for defense purposes. These developments did not result in the formation of a framework of the ruling and opposition camps for policy promotion, but such budding signs of policy cooperation should be encouraged.



A one-on-one debate between Fukuda and DPJ President Ichiro Ozawa was held only once in the Diet session, even though it is the duty of the leaders of the two main parties to frankly exchange views.


There will be general election some time before lower house members see their term expire in September next year. The ruling and opposition camps must show that they are not overly focused on the next election and avoid further tugs-of-war in the Diet.


(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 21, 2008)

20086210128  読売新聞)


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