DPJ may try to extend Diet till year’s end to get tax hike OK

JIJI

Executives of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan are considering a long extension for the current Diet session, including all the way to the end of the year, according to sources.

The legislative session is currently slated to end June 21.

The DPJ is examining the possibility of a lengthy extension because preparing the ground for Lower House passage of contentious bills to double the consumption tax will probably take a long time amid strong opposition from the Liberal Democratic Party and other opposition parties, and even from many DPJ lawmakers, including kingpin Ichiro Ozawa.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, president of the DPJ, has said he is staking his political career on passing the bills, which call for raising the consumption tax to 10 percent by October 2015.

Noda has instructed DPJ Secretary General Azuma Koshiishi to arrange a meeting between him and Ozawa, during which he will try to persuade the former party leader to support the tax hike.

DPJ lawmakers supporting Ozawa say such a meeting would be meaningless if Noda plans to make it a token event.

Even if the meeting is held, they would unlikely be able to bridge their differences immediately, sources in the party said.

DPJ leaders will try to decide whether to extend the Diet session in early June while watching the course of debate by a special Lower House committee on the tax hike bills and other legislation related to comprehensive tax and social security reform, the sources said.

Some DPJ members are calling for the session to be extended only until August because the ruling party presidential election will be held in September.

An extension until the end of the year is now in the spotlight because such a move would help delay Lower House votes on the consumption tax bills beyond the DPJ leadership election and thus avoid a possible split in the party, the sources said.

Noda could face a tough re-election bid as DPJ leader if he fails to get the bills passed. But if the Diet session is allowed to continue after the party election and the bills remain under deliberation, he would have a strong reason to stay on, according to the sources.

This scenario would help both Noda and Ozawa save face, the sources said.

But one problem is there has never been an extension of a regular Diet session until year’s end. The longest extension so far is 94 days.

Regular sessions, held every year, usually last 150 days. They start in January and normally wrap up by the end of June.

The LDP, the biggest opposition party, will also hold its leadership election in September.