Ruling parties force antiterrorism, bank funding bills through Diet

by Masami Ito

Steamrolling the opposition camp, the Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling coalition forced passage of a special antiterrorism bill and a bank recapitalization bill Friday by overriding the Upper House with a second vote.

Passing the two controversial bills was Prime Minister Taro Aso’s main goal in the extraordinary Diet session, which was extended to Dec. 25 to ensure their enactment.

The legislative victories gave Aso a brief respite from his inexorable plunge in opinion polls.

“From the viewpoints of taking action on the financial crisis and international cooperation, the enactment of these two bills was extremely important for this extraordinary Diet session,” LDP Secretary General Hiroyuki Hosoda said. “It is gratifying.”

The opposition-controlled Upper House rejected the bills earlier in the morning, only to see the House of Representatives ram them through the Diet later that afternoon as expected.

Under Article 59 of the Constitution, if the Upper House rejects a bill, the Lower House can override it with a two-thirds majority vote, which the ruling bloc has.

This method was used for the first time in half a century in January by then Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda to ram the previous antiterrorism law through the Diet. Since then, the ruling bloc has relied on the override tactic a number of times in order to bypass stiff resistance to their agenda from the opposition camp.

“Article 59 Clause 2 of the Constitution is a rule only to be used as an exception — (but the ruling bloc is) using it again?” asked Democratic Party of Japan Lower House lawmaker Mitsuo Mitani.

“The principle is to enact a law that has cleared both houses, and (Article 59) should not be abused.”

The antiterrorism law, which expires Jan. 15, allows the Maritime Self-Defense Force to refuel and provide water to multinational warships in the Indian Ocean engaged in counterterrorism operations in and around Afghanistan. The enactment of the bill extends the mission for another year.

The mission symbolizes Japan’s commitment and contributions to international counterterrorism efforts.

But the DPJ, the largest opposition force, has opposed the MSDF mission in support of the U.S.-led Operation Enduring Freedom-Maritime Interdiction Operation on grounds that the operation has not been officially authorized by the U.N. and therefore any refueling activities are unconstitutional.