Rocky Diet ends; just 35 bills passed

No-confidence motion vetoed; Kan camp puts focus on polls

by Alex Martin

The first ordinary Diet session under a Democratic Party of Japan-led government wrapped up Wednesday, kicking off a campaign season that will culminate with an Upper House election next month.

The turbulent 150-day session, during which Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama suddenly stepped down and was succeeded by Naoto Kan, ended with numerous government-sponsored bills left unpassed as the DPJ rushed to set July 11 for the election day.

On the final day, opposition parties threw a no-confidence motion at the ruling bloc led by Kan, saying the administration under the new DPJ president was ending the session at this time only to benefit itself in the election.

The DPJ was quick to pull down the curtain on the session, fearing that an extension would give the opposition further time to scrutinize the recent money scandals that have been dogging the party.

But as a result, out of 64 new government-proposed bills, only 35 were enacted, the lowest rate under the Constitution.

“The (no-confidence) motion questions the DPJ’s irresponsible, election-driven nature and blatant contrivance to serve the interest of the party,” Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Ryosei Akazawa charged during the Lower House plenary session.

The motion, as well as earlier requests by the opposition camp calling for a nine-day extension of the session, were rejected by the DPJ-led ruling coalition in the early evening.

A censure motion was also presented in the Upper House against Kan and national policy minister Satoshi Arai, who has admitted his now-defunct political body inappropriately booked costs for comic book purchases as official expenses.

But the motion died automatically after the ruling and opposition camps failed to agree on holding an Upper House plenary session.

During a meeting of DPJ lawmakers earlier in the day, Kan told them not to be “provoked” by the motions.

“I can’t understand why a censure motion has been submitted. I’ve done my best with my policy speech and at Diet question-and-answer sessions,” he said.

Kan took office June 8 after Hatoyama stepped down over funding scandals and the confusion that ensued over the contentious relocation of the U.S. Futenma air base, which resulted in the Social Democratic Party deserting the coalition.

The DPJ’s decision to scrap a bill reviewing the postal privatization process also led to the resignation of Kokumin Shinto (People’s New Party) leader Shizuka Kamei from the Cabinet, although the small party decided to remain in the alliance.

Siberia POW aid

Kyodo News

The Diet passed a bill Wednesday to provide special benefits to living former Japanese prisoners of war held in Siberian and Mongolian labor camps after World War II.

The Lower House approved the bill during a plenary session in the early evening. The Upper House passed it in May.

The Public Foundation for Peace and Consolation, an independent administrative agency, will be empowered to dip into its capital of ¥20 billion to provide ¥250,000 to ¥1.5 million to the former prisoners depending on how long they were detained.