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2015年10月25日 (日)

(社説)臨時国会 召集の求めに応じよ

--The Asahi Shimbun, Oct. 20
EDITORIAL: Abe, take note: There is a pressing need for fall Diet session
(社説)臨時国会 召集の求めに応じよ

The Abe administration is set to forgo an autumn extraordinary Diet session.

In response, the Democratic Party of Japan and other opposition parties called Oct. 19 on the Abe Cabinet to convoke a Diet session quickly. Abe should immediately grant this totally legitimate demand.

It is customary to convene an extraordinary Diet session in autumn to resume work that was not finished during the regular Diet session, such as incomplete deliberations on important bills.

It would be the first time since 2005 for an autumnal session not to be convened.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga explained that the government “has no choice but to give a higher priority to the prime minister’s diplomatic agenda” rather than to calling a new Diet session now.

It is true that Abe’s diplomatic schedule through November is tight with a series of important international conferences, including a trilateral meeting with the leaders of China and South Korea and a summit of the Group of 20 industrialized nations.

But there is a heap of policy issues that demand Diet debate.

Abe reshuffled his Cabinet earlier this month and announced a new policy agenda, which includes “three new arrows” of "Abenomics" to achieve ambitious goals like increasing Japan’s gross domestic product to 600 trillion yen as well as a plan to build a society where 100 million people will all play active roles.

But many Japanese question the achievability of these policy goals and are unsure about what Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meant by “active roles.”

Abe needs to outline his vision in a policy speech at the Diet and then respond to people’s doubts by answering questions about his speech from other Diet members.

As for recently enacted national security legislation, Abe promised to “continue efforts to offer detailed explanations in order to gain more public understanding.”

He should fulfill his promise by offering more explanations about related questions, such as what steps he intends to take in the future under the new security laws.

Other topics that need to be discussed at the Diet include the content of the agreement recently reached in the negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact; the controversial plan to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa Prefecture, which has led to bitter confrontation between the Abe administration and the prefectural government; the challenge of mending Japan’s strained relations with its neighbors; and the question of how Japan should respond to the unfolding refugee crisis.

It would be outrageously selfish of the government to demand that the Diet deal with all these issues in the ordinary Diet session to be called early next year. The government should be criticized for belittling the importance of Diet debate on policy issues.

There are also questions that some of the new members of the Cabinet should answer.

It has been revealed that the local branch of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party headed by farm minister Hiroshi Moriyama received political donations from construction companies that had been barred from bidding for public works contracts with the Kagoshima prefectural government.

There are also other ministers who are caught up in scandals.

It is not in Abe’s best interest to allow people to suspect that the government is reluctant to convene a Diet session because it wants to delay the opposition camp’s attacks on its policies as much as possible.

The opposition parties are considering invoking Article 53 of the Constitution to force the Cabinet to call a Diet session.

It stipulates that the Cabinet must convoke an extraordinary session when a quarter or more of all the members of either House demands it.

But the article doesn’t state when the Cabinet must do so. That means the Cabinet can postpone taking action.

Refusing to convene a session at an early date, however, would run counter to the constitutional principle of respecting the intentions of minority groups.

The Abe Cabinet should decide to call an extraordinary Diet session on its own without waiting for the opposition camp to make the demand.


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