Diet set to be extended for postal bills

by Reiji Yoshida

The Liberal Democratic Party and the government Thursday started preparing to extend the current Diet session beyond June 19 to ensure there is enough time to pass the contentious postal privatization bills.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda admitted it is effectively impossible to pass the bills by the scheduled end of the 150-day Diet session and urged the legislature to extend it beyond June 19.

“As you know, the situation is so difficult (for the Diet) to enact the bills through votes at the Lower and Upper Houses,” the top government spokesman told a news conference.

The Diet may have to work into August, since Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has repeatedly said the bills must be voted on during the current session, calling for a final settlement on the political row over his push to privatize the postal services.

LDP executives indicated earlier that they would extend the Diet’s schedule to ensure the bills are passed.

Koizumi met with LDP Secretary General Tsutomu Takebe earlier in the day and is believed to have instructed the party’s No. 2 man to prepare for the extension.

“What I told him was, I would leave all the matters concerning Diet affairs to the party executives,” Koizumi told reporters Thursday evening.

Media reports also said the ruling bloc of the LDP and New Komeito has agreed to vote on the bills in the Lower House only after the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly’s election on July 3, out of concern that an attempt to bulldoze the bills through the chamber might adversely affect the parties’ performance in the election.

Neither Hosoda nor Koizumi would confirm the reports.