One-hundred fifty days, some 100 laws and 16 treaties later, the ruling partnership is still intact, at least on the surface.
The ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its two smaller non-Cabinet allies, the Social Democratic Party and New Party Sakigake, managed to remain together for the Diet session that ended June 18, accomplishing a great deal in the way of legislation but also leaving a number of key bills unpassed as they spent time trying to narrow their differences.
These bills include one to create a public nursing care insurance system for ailing elderly, a bill to promote activities of nonprofit organizations, a soccer lottery bill and a bill to revise the Law for Oath, Testimony, etc. of Witnesses at the Diet to allow live broadcast of Diet testimony.
Although all four bills passed the Lower House, officials of the Upper House decided June 16 that they will be carried over to the next Diet session. An extraordinary session is expected in the fall.
Because of strong opposition within the LDP, the three parties failed again this year to come to an agreement to submit a bill to revise the Civil Law to allow spouses to have different surnames. Although the Justice Ministry hoped to submit a bill during the 1996 ordinary session, some LDP members, especially from the old guard, insisted that allowing a married couple to have different surnames would ruin family unity and indirectly lead to divorce or the collapse of families.
Some members of the SDP and Sakigake jointly submitted a bill to revise the Civil Law, but it was discarded without deliberation. Although lawmakers held discussions on the issue when a similar bill was submitted by the Democratic Party of Japan, that bill was also abandoned June 17 due to insufficient time for deliberations.
The unity of the ruling alliance was severely shaken in April when the SDP opposed a revision of the 1952 Law on Special Measures for Land for the U.S. Military that enabled the government to continue leasing land, including by force, in Okinawa Prefecture for U.S. military installations. The SDP, a longtime foe of the conservative LDP before 1994, holds considerably different policies on security matters.
The revision was secured with the support of an overwhelming majority of lawmakers after Shinshinto President Ichiro Ozawa accepted a request from Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto to cooperate with his administration on the issue.
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