Following political turmoil that rocked the Diet over the past week, ruling block Upper House members finally enacted the contentious state secrets bill late Friday night.
Earlier in the day, opposition parties intensified their protests in vain over a law that’s being criticizing for not creating an independent oversight body capable of preventing the government from hiding inconvenient information at its discretion.
To enact the law, the Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling coalition on Friday extended the Diet session by two days to secure more time for deliberation and procedures to set up a plenary vote.
The opposition parties, centered on the Democratic Party of Japan, waged a last-ditch effort to delay Diet procedures in protest, including submission of a no-confidence motion in the Lower House and a censure motion in the Upper House against Masako Mori, state minister in charge of the secrets bill.
The DPJ also submitted a no-confidence motion in the Lower House against the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe later in the day. DPJ President Banri Kaieda argued that just an extension of just two days was far from sufficient to deliberate one of the most contested bills in years.
The DPJ, the Social Democratic Party and the Japanese Communist Party argued to have the secrets bill scrapped.
But Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and Your Party agreed with the ruling bloc to revise the bill to create what they reckon would be an independent oversight body to check government-designated secrets.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s pledge to create another three monitoring bodies to check secrets held by the government was also supported by Nippon Ishin and Your Party.
But in the end, the two opposition parties walked away from the plenary vote on the bill on Friday, arguing that more time for deliberation is needed.
Abe suddenly came up with his plan to create the additional three oversight bodies, which appear similar to each other, just two days before the original end of the Diet session. Critics argued that he pitched the idea just to dodge public criticism.
The DPJ, SDP and JCP have blasted Abe’s plan to create the four oversight bodies, saying they will not be independent, particularly because two of the monitoring entities would be under the Cabinet Office and bureaucrats, the chief Cabinet secretary and the deputy chief Cabinet secretary.
The ruling camp originally had planned to enact the bill Thursday after ramming it though the Upper House Special Committee on National Security but gave up on voting amid intensifying protests from opposition lawmakers, major media outlets and vocal protesters outside the Diet.
The secrets bill is one of the key components of Abe’s political agenda to enhance the Japan-U.S. alliance. The government has argued such a law is needed to protect classified information provided by foreign allies.
Yet the government has apparently failed to ease public suspicion that the bill, in the name of national security, would allow the government to hide information, dispose of it and jail people who leak or illegally seek such information.
The law would classify information related to defense, diplomacy, counterterrorism and counterintelligence, and the government says it is mainly designed to punish government employees who leak state secrets.
But given the apparent ambiguity in many articles in the bill, opposition lawmakers and media outlets have argued it could be used to punish ordinary citizens and journalists if they learn of or try to obtain state secrets.