Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers grilled Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda in the Diet on Wednesday over recent verbal gaffes by his Cabinet ministers as well as his party’s flip-flops on various key policies, and urged him to dissolve the Lower House and call a snap election.
During a Lower House plenary session, LDP President Sadakazu Tanigaki slammed recent statements by key officials, including a joke made by then trade minister Yoshio Hachiro in which he claimed to have contaminated a reporter with radiation. In other instances, Defense Minister Yasuo Ichikawa described himself as an “amateur” on security issues, while health minister Yoko Komiyama overstepped her authority by calling for a tax hike on cigarettes.
Komiyama’s remark reflected badly on Finance Minister Jun Azumi, who is in charge of tax revision, by revealing that the comment had been made without first consulting with Azumi.
While noting that Noda’s Cabinet has received strong public support, Tanigaki said little had changed with the ruling Democratic Party of Japan other than its leader.
“Once we look behind the seemingly dignified (leader), it’s business as usual for the DPJ, with members making shallow statements, talking off the tops of their heads with careless comments and actions one after another,” Tanigaki said. “I can’t help but say that the substance, after all, has not changed.”
Noda is the third DPJ prime minister since the party’s historic victory in the 2009 Lower House election, following Yukio Hatoyama and Naoto Kan. Since then, however, the ruling bloc has lost its majority in the Upper House and has been forced to abandon some key policies, including upping the government child allowance and making highways toll-free.
“I think you should retract the (DPJ’s) entire (2009) manifesto with good grace, apologize to the public and seek the judgment of the people,” Tanigaki said in urging Noda to call a Lower House election.
The prime minister firmly rejected the idea, saying it is not the right time given the current efforts to recover from the devastating March 11 quake and tsunami.
“I would like to ask the people to hand down a judgement at an appropriate time, but I firmly believe that now is not the time to dissolve” the Lower House, Noda said.
Meanwhile, another LDP lawmaker, Yoshihisa Furukawa, strongly criticized the DPJ for supporting giving foreigners the right to vote at the local level. While Noda’s predecessors had openly backed the plan, the comparatively conservative new prime minister was more circumspect Wednesday.
“There are various opinions on giving suffrage to permanent foreign residents and I think it is necessary for each political party to discuss the matter thoroughly,” Noda said.
Noda, Kan and DPJ policy chief Seiji Maehara have been under fire for accepting donations from foreign individuals and companies, as prohibited by the Political Funds Control Law. The trio received contributions from South Korean residents under their Japanese names. Korean nationals were forced to take Japanese names while under colonial rule before World War II.