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2014年1月20日 (月)

国会改革 党首討論をもっと活用せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 19, 2014
Reform Diet with more debate among party leaders, electoral system review
国会改革 党首討論をもっと活用せよ(1月19日付・読売社説)


The Diet must respond appropriately to changes in and outside Japan and deal quickly with the issues it faces. To realize this, it is essential to reform the nation’s political decision-making system, which is often trapped in the old mold.

The ordinary session of the Diet is to be convened Friday, and parliamentary reforms must be carried out as quickly as possible.

Reduce PM’s burden

Under the current system, the prime minister and other cabinet ministers are tied up in Diet deliberations far longer than their counterparts in Britain and Germany. It is important for the government to be completely accountable. But, if it prevents the ministers from working on domestic and foreign affairs, it is like putting the cart before the horse.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner, New Komeito, last month proposed a review of Diet management.

The proposal calls for debates among party leaders in the Diet, which were held only twice last year, to be held once a month, although the prime minister is required only to attend plenary sessions of the Diet and budget committee meetings to answer basic questions. If cabinet ministers have to skip deliberations to attend international conferences or to deal with disasters, vice ministers or parliamentary secretaries should fill in for them, it says.

We think the proposal’s basic direction is appropriate.

“The proposal will give the prime minister and cabinet ministers an excuse to avoid Diet deliberations,” the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan said.
This objection is far from convincing because, when it was in office, the party proposed flexible management of the Diet “from the viewpoints of national interests and foreign policy.”

After a change in government, a ruling party becomes an opposition party. Both the ruling and opposition parties should work together to constructively make new rules.

The substance of Diet deliberations must be enriched and the Diet’s management streamlined. A battle of words between the ruling and opposition parties tends to be nothing more than a tug-of-war about Diet schedules, with the ruling parties trying to pass bills as quickly as possible and the opposition parties attempting to scrap bills by drawing out the deliberations so they cannot be passed before the end of a Diet session. A typical example of that is the process to enact a bill to protect special state secrets.

In Japan, the cabinet submits most bills to the Diet. To make the Diet more functional as a legislature, more bills should be sponsored by Diet members.

Since the state of the divided Diet in which the opposition controlled the House of Councillors has ended, the Diet must make preparations for a similar situation to occur in the future. For instance, it is necessary to review the system of a joint committee of both houses that is formed when different decisions are made by the two Diet chambers.

In practice, members of the committee, 10 each from the upper and lower houses, are all selected from the majority party at each chamber. This practice has robbed the committee of its substance and made it a place where 10 supporters and 10 opponents to a certain bill meet but can never reach an agreement, except to confirm that negotiations failed.

We expect Diet members to come up with ideas to help the committee reach agreement, such as by changing the number and composition of its members, for instance.

It is also necessary to come up with a decision on what to do about Yui no To, a party formed near the end of last year by defectors from Your Party, as it has been prevented from forming a new parliamentary group in the Diet.

Resolve Yui no To issue

Yui no To, which comprises 15 lawmakers, submitted on Jan. 7 an application to the secretariats of both houses of the legislature for registration as a parliamentary group, but the secretariats turned it down.

As Your Party rejected the defections of 13 of the 15 lawmakers, who won Diet seats in proportional representation contests, the application was blocked due to the Diet practice of leaving the authority for filing an application allowing certain members of a parliamentary group to secede up to the group’s top leader.

The result is that Yui no To has neither a waiting room nor has an interpellation slot been allotted to it. It also is ineligible to receive funds to cover legislative investigative activities that are paid from the state coffers to parliamentary groups. Under the circumstances, the party has difficulty in engaging in Diet activities.

Your Party has demanded that the defectors who obtained Diet seats on the strength of ballots that were garnered in the name of the party in the proportional representation segments of the Diet elections should resign as legislators and return their seats to Your Party.

Your Party’s argument is reasonable, considering they were elected to the Diet solely on the strength of votes cast for the party in the proportional representation contest. It is also understandable, however, that the LDP has said the insistence of Your Party seeking to make Yui no To members remain in Your Party’s parliamentary group “in spite of their disagreements with Yui no To should be deemed unnatural.”]

At a meeting of directors of the lower house’s Rules and Administration Committee, it was agreed that “the will of individual house members should be respected regarding their withdrawal from a parliamentary group.”

There have been a number of cases in which lawmakers who won seats through proportional representation and later broke away from their parties to be subsequently acknowledged as withdrawing from parliamentary groups.

Participation of such a lawmaker who defects to a new party is allowed under the Public Offices Election Law. Preventing lawmakers from seceding from one parliamentary group to join another will hamper political realignment moves.

If there are no prospects of resolving conflicts involving a parliamentary group, the speaker of the lower house or the president of the upper house should mediate to resolve the problem.

A problem like that between Your Party and Yui no To can recur at any time. It is desirable to establish a set of rules governing the formation of a new parliamentary group and procedures concerning secession from an existing one.

Also problematic in this connection is that there has been little progress in reforming the electoral systems of both houses.

Regarding the disparity in the value of votes in the lower house election in December 2012, the Supreme Court handed down a ruling that it was in a “state of unconstitutionality.” In lawsuits concerning the upper house poll in July last year, 13 high courts in various parts of the country ruled the election to be “in a state of unconstitutionality,” while three others bluntly called the election “unconstitutional.”

Don’t stick to seat cuts

The courts all called for the legislature to tackle the task of drastically reforming the election system to rectify vote value disparities between the most and least represented constituencies.

Both the ruling and opposition camps in the lower and upper houses must realize the seriousness of the current state of affairs, which the judiciary refuses to call “constitutional.”

The main factor hindering an agreement between the ruling and opposition parties on electoral system reform is the difference in views concerning the reduction of lawmakers.

The parties should redouble efforts to come up with truly desirable and feasible electoral systems, by setting aside trimming the number of Diet seats, which has been influenced by opportunistic party interests intended to pander to the public.

If the ruling and opposition parties remain unable to craft specific reforms because of their partisan maneuvering, there is no other option than to leave the matter up to deliberations by an expert third-party organ, an idea proposed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 19, 2014)
(2014年1月19日01時29分  読売新聞)


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