Political battlefront shifts to Diet posts, floor space

by Masami Ito

As the country has been ruled by the same political party almost uninterruptedly for over half a century, some of the most unexpected problems are surfacing now that another force has seized power.

The Liberal Democratic Party and the Democratic Party of Japan are engaged in a heated tug-of-war over personnel appointments for key Diet posts and even how much floor space the two can secure in the Lower House building. And neither side is ready to back down.

To begin with, the DPJ wants the posts of both the speaker and vice speaker of the House of Representatives, despite the chamber’s custom of giving the speaker’s post to the No. 1 party and the vice speaker’s post to the second-largest party, which is now the LDP.

“Choosing the speaker and vice speaker of the house is the most important issue to structure the Diet,” said LDP lawmaker Ichiro Aisawa. “We have repeatedly said that we should choose someone from the DPJ as the speaker, and someone from the LDP as the vice speaker, but unfortunately, the DPJ is unwilling to respond.”

Floor space is another point of contention. The DPJ saw its Lower House members rise from 112 to 308 in the Aug. 30 election, while the LDP ended up with only 119 seats, down from the 303.

According to the Lower House secretariat, the LDP had been using 1,428 sq. meters in the chamber, while the DPJ had only 610 sq. meters.

The DPJ is now fighting with a vengeance to take over the LDP’s office space.

On Thursday, the LDP suggested surrendering a big portion of its space, Aisawa said, but added that the DPJ is still dissatisfied.

“The proposal was a major compromise, but unfortunately, it looks like the DPJ refused,” Aisawa said.

Finding itself in the opposition is a slap in the face for the LDP, which not only lost its grip on the government but is also on the verge of losing privileges such as the use of spacious rooms and many of the sleek black official vehicles.

“Losing (seats) is difficult,” Aisawa said. “But we must accept reality and start again.”