The Diet opened Monday amid expectations that the Abe administration will focus on security legislation to expand the overseas activities of the Self-Defense Forces after his Cabinet’s decision last year to reinterpret the war-renouncing Constitution.
The 150-day ordinary session began with the government gripped by a hostage crisis in the Middle East that has apparently led to the execution of at least one of two Japanese being held by the Islamic State group. The crisis is bound to intensify the security debate.
Among the more controversial topics will be how to forge a legal framework to exercise the right to collective self-defense, or coming to the aid of an ally under armed attack.
At a general meeting of Liberal Democratic Party members held before the Diet opened, Abe stressed he would use “every possible measure” to save the life of journalist Kenji Goto. A still image of Goto holding a picture appearing to show the beheaded corpse of fellow hostage Haruna Yukawa was posted online late Saturday.
Abe also vowed to pass the fiscal 2015 regular budget as early as possible and to enact reform bills in agriculture, labor and health care.
“This is an extremely important Diet,” Abe told his party at the gathering at the National Diet Building, pledging to “push through bold reforms.
“We also must establish security legislation to protect the lives of Japanese and our peaceful way of life,” Abe said.
The government plans to submit the security bills after the nationwide wave of local elections in April to protect his party from any fallout.
Enacting the security bills, however, will not be an easy task. Abe’s LDP must reach an agreement with Komeito, its junior coalition partner, which is leery of loosening any constitutional constraints on the Self-Defense Forces.
While the opposition is expected to grill the ruling coalition over the security legislation, doubts remain over how effective they will be.
The Democratic Party of Japan has yet to formulate a concrete stance on the collective self-defense issue, which has divided its members. Ishin no To (Japan Innovation Party), the second-largest party, remains indecisive as well.
Also on the agenda is Abe’s statement to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in August, and a bill to revise a labor law that would effectively allow companies to use temp staff indefinitely.
The Abe government plans to submit at least 80 bills to the Diet, officials said, including more than 10 aimed at loosening restrictions on use and dispatch of the Self-Defense Forces, with the LDP and Komeito expected to step up talks in early February.
The government submitted a ¥3.12 trillion supplementary budget for fiscal 2014 to the Diet on Monday and plans to submit a record-high ¥96.34 trillion annual budget request in mid-February.
In an unusual development, Abe did not deliver the customary policy speech to open the Diet session Monday but is expected to do so in mid-February, when the government submits the annual budget for 2015.
Information from Kyodo added