New Komeito on Friday joined other opposition parties in calling for the resignation of Justice Minister Shozaburo Nakamura, who after coming under fire for allegedly abusing his authority has more recently committed a series of gaffes.
By taking a stand, New Komeito, an ally of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, puts the government under greater pressure to act.
Tetsuzo Fuyushiba, secretary general of New Komeito, the second-largest opposition force, said Nakamura could voluntary resign to put the stalled Diet proceedings back on track. Nakamura first came under fire last year for abusing his authority by allegedly prompting an investigation into a resort development project on Ishigaki Island, Okinawa Prefecture, that threatened his private business interests.
In January, Nakamura stepped into more hot water by suggesting Japan revise its war-renouncing Constitution to have a full-fledged military.
And earlier this week he admitted to inadvertently keeping a report written by Arnold Schwarzenegger explaining the circumstances surrounding the U.S. movie star’s entry into Japan without a passport in October. Nakamura is suspected of having kept it for nearly half a year as a keepsake; he has often said that he and his family are fans of the Hollywood action star.
The rising criticism has caused the Democratic Party of Japan, the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party to boycott Judicial Affairs Committee sessions.
Now that once-neutral New Komeito has joined the fray, the smooth sailing recently enjoyed by the government of Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi has become somewhat stormy. Although Obuchi heads the LDP, his administration still needs New Komeito’s support to get key bills through the Upper House, where the LDP lacks a majority.
Earlier in the day Yukio Hatoyama, deputy secretary general of the DPJ, said his party will also boycott other committee sessions if the justice minister attends them. He also indicated his party may consider submitting a motion against the minister if he does not step down.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiromu Nonaka said he plans to report the results of the investigation into Nakamura’s alleged abuses as early as next week during an Upper House Budget Committee session. But he urged the opposition parties to wait until the report comes out before acting. “It is truly regrettable that the opposition parties are rejecting the justice minister’s presence at the committee and calling for his resignation,” Nonaka said. “I hope they will understand and first listen to my report on the related incidents at the Budget Committee.”