The Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling coalition was set to forcibly pass the contentious state secrecy bill into law as early as Thursday night, after it rammed the legislation through the Upper House Special Committee on National Security earlier on the day.
The chairman of the committee abruptly motioned for a vote on the bill, and ruling bloc lawmakers voted, while opposition lawmakers tried to block it by surrounding and shouting at him.
“The committee chairman did not even mention we would vote on it when we had a meeting before the session,” said Tetsuro Fukuyama, an Upper House member of the committee from the Democratic Party of Japan. “Again they leveraged the power of numbers. I am beyond angry.”
Opposition members of the committee had repeatedly demanded that the ruling coalition not repeat the steamroller tactics it used in the Lower House on Nov. 26 when they said the bill had not undergone enough deliberations.
But the coalition said enough time was spent on the bill.
“The Lower House committee spent 22 hours in questioning the government, while the Upper House spent 17 hours, or 76 percent of the time . . . I think we did enough,” said Masahisa Sato, an LDP member of the Upper House committee. Usually the House of Councilors spends 70 percent of the Lower House deliberation time on a bill.
While the DPJ, the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party are firmly against the bill and want the ruling camp to scrap it, Your Party and Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), at least on the working-level, support the contents of the bill after working conflicting clauses Thursday morning.
Especially for Nippon Ishin, the only concern was whether the ruing coalition will firmly promise to set up an independent body to oversee the classification and declassification process of secrets to prevent the government from hiding inconvenient information.
The bill only states that formation of an independent oversight body will be considered.
According to the new proposal by the ruing coalition Thursday, the government will launch a “highly independent body” to monitor the classification and declassification process as well as dispose of secret documents at the prime minister’s office before the law comes into force.
The ruling bloc claimed that it went the extra mile by considering an upgrade of the current oversight body to a highly independent group, similar to the Fair Trade Commission, whose members require approval from the Diet, but it failed to mandate such a body in the bill’s text.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga satisfied Nippon Ishin and Your Party by repeating the sentences agreed among them, but other opposition forces lashed out at not being even informed of the proposed oversight body’s functions.
“Responses from the government do not guarantee that the government will set up such an oversight body, unless it’s written in the law,” said Mizuho Fukushima, ex- chief of the SDP. “That’s why we need to scrap the bill.”
Still, Your Party and Nippon Ishin protested the way the bill was bulldozed. Nippon Ishin said it would walk away from the vote at the Upper House plenary session like they did at the Lower House, if the ruling camp was going to ram the bill through on the same day.
Meanwhile, the DPJ was enraged by the ruling camp, which sacked two DPJ Upper House members from chairman positions earlier Thursday.
A high-ranking DPJ lawmaker said that they would do everything to prevent the vote, including submitting a censure motion against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the president of the Upper House.