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2008年12月25日 (木)

臨時国会閉幕 解散政局で「政策」が沈んだ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 25, 2008)

Politicking wastes Diet session

臨時国会閉幕 解散政局で「政策」が沈んだ(1225日付・読売社説)

After weighing his options, Prime Minister Taro Aso decided against dissolving the House of Representatives. Democratic Party of Japan President Ichiro Ozawa, for his part, was not able to pressure Aso into dissolving the lower house. And Diet members showed little inclination to settle down for any kind of policy discussions because of a possible snap election.


So ends the current extraordinary Diet session Thursday, which has been overshadowed by the specter of a possible Diet dissolution.


In his first policy speech at the Diet on Sept. 29, Aso fielded a series of questions about DPJ policies and its positions on particular bills--a rare move for a prime minister to undertake in a speech of that kind. This was probably because the prime minister intended at that point to dissolve the lower house at the beginning of the Diet session.


But the approval rating of the Aso Cabinet immediately after its inauguration was not as high as had been expected, while the U.S.-originated financial crisis was spreading in scope and depth. These factors served to give Aso second thoughts about dissolving the lower house as the session wore on.


Even so, Liberal Democratic Party executives and New Komeito tried to persuade Aso to dissolve the Diet around the end of October. Aso vacillated for a while, but eventually decided against doing so. Resentment toward Aso, who was chosen as the LDP's face for the next lower house election, began to spread within the ruling parties.



Aso inconsistency hurt party

If the prime minister had pushed ahead with measures to boost the economy and employment under the slogan of prioritizing policymaking over political maneuvering, he would have been able to find a way out of this political quagmire. But he did not submit a second supplementary budget for financing additional pump-priming measures to this extended Diet session.



It is little wonder then that Aso, who has lacked consistency in both his handling of policies and political maneuvering, has come in for fierce criticism.


The prime minister also caused some self-inflicted wounds through his careless remarks. It will not be easy now to boost the Cabinet's approval ratings, which have plummeted to well below the 30 percent mark.


During this Diet session, discord has emerged between the ruling coalition partnership of the LDP and New Komeito.


It is fine for New Komeito to assert its positions on the timing of Diet dissolution and the advisability of an increase in the consumption tax rate. But sticking so doggedly to its own partisan interests will make it difficult for New Komeito to carry out its duties as a member of the ruling coalition.


Meanwhile, the DPJ's handling of Diet affairs as an opposition party also has been erratic.



Political opportunism

The DPJ swiftly dropped its hitherto conciliatory approach toward the ruling parties as soon as it became clear the prime minister was not going to dissolve the lower house anytime soon. The party agreed to pass the bill to revise the new Antiterrorism Law after brief deliberations, but then tried to prolong debate over the bill by reneging on an agreement between the ruling and opposition parties to hold a vote on it in the House of Councillors. The DPJ's opportunism was clear.


Near the end of the session, the DPJ, with two other opposition parties, submitted four bills for employment-boosting measures to the upper house and had them ostentatiously passed through the chamber after 2-1/2 hours of committee deliberations.


It is puzzling why the DPJ decided to ram the bills through the upper house.


The four bills submitted by the opposition parties had many points in common with a government plan for boosting employment. The fact that the ruling and opposition parties were unable to coordinate policies over urgent tasks amid the deteriorating economic conditions symbolizes how fruitless this Diet session was.


The DPJ protested the scrapping of the four employment bills at the lower house Wednesday by introducing to the chamber a resolution to dissolve the Diet, which was later voted down.


The DPJ was apparently trying to stun the LDP, and the opposition party's prioritizing of political games was a constant feature of the Diet session.


(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 25, 2008)

200812250133  読売新聞)


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