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Calling the new coalition government of Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi a “moral hazard” formed solely to reinforce political power, DPJ head Yukio Hatoyama on Tuesday demanded the early dissolution of the Lower House.

Questioning Obuchi during a Lower House plenary session, the leader of the Democratic Party of Japan said the chamber should be dissolved as soon as possible so the tripartite coalition can be judged by the electorate. Two other major opposition parties — the Social Democratic Party and the Japanese Communist Party — made the same demands.

On top of the fierce criticism from opposition parties, the coalition bloc of the Liberal Democratic Party, the Liberal Party and New Komeito also revealed rifts in their internal policies in their own debates.

New Komeito demanded that corporate contributions to individual politicians be banned by law, while the Liberal Party blamed Obuchi for “ignoring” the ruling parties’ agreement on the planned public-care system for the elderly.

Questioning Obuchi’s speech on Friday to open the Diet session, Akihiro Ota, of New Komeito, said, “I believe that contributions from businesses and organizations to individual contributions should be banned starting in January next year, as required by the Political Funds Control Law.”

The LDP’s own political reform panel, however, has compiled a report concluding that corporate contributions should not be banned, claiming that a culture of individual contributions has not taken root in this country and that corporate contributions are not necessarily “evil.”

But long before it joined the coalition, New Komeito attacked the LDP for what it described as the party’s “pork-barrel nature,” and attention has been focused on how New Komeito will handle the issue now that it is in the coalition.

Responding to the question, Obuchi would only say that he hopes each party in the coalition will conduct “sufficient discussions” on the issue.

Meanwhile, Takashi Aoyama, of the Liberal Party, claimed that Obuchi has ignored the ruling parties’ agreement to study how the public-care system will be financed once services are launched in April.

In his opening speech, Obuchi said he will prepare to launch an “insurance system” for public services, but the Liberal Party argued that such services should be financed by the Consumption Tax, not by an insurance system.

Obuchi pointed out that the ruling parties have agreed not to revise any laws in reviewing the care system, and that he is preparing to launch the insurance system in April as originally planned.

Answering questions both from New Komeito and Takako Doi, leader of the Social Democratic Party, Obuchi also said that he will not alter the five-point principle when considering dispatching the Self-Defense Forces to contribute to a United Nations-led peacekeeping operation.

Strict conditions have been attached in dispatching the SDF on U.N peacekeeping operations out of concern that it could violate the Constitution, which prohibits Japan from exercising “the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes.”

In his attack on the new coalition, Hatoyama pointed out that the LDP deciding to team up with New Komeito — the de facto political body of the lay Buddhist organization Soka Gakkai — amounts to an about-face. The party was previously of the opinion that a religion-backed group assuming power could violate Article 20 of the Constitution, which stipulates that the state shall refrain from any religious activity.

In response to Hatoyama’s criticism, Obuchi maintained that the LDP has consistently interpreted New Komeito’s participation in the government as not violating the Constitution.

“Am I the only one who believes that (the coalition) has lost (even the most basic) ethics, which is to abide by the law?” Hatoyama asked.

He went on to criticize the administration’s backtracking on the ban on corporate donations to individual lawmakers. A 1995 law stipulates that the ban must be introduced by January.

Hatoyama also attacked the coalition, which occupies 357 of the 500 Lower House seats, for compromising an earlier LDP-Liberal Party agreement in reaching a deal to bring New Komeito into the fold that will cut 20 Lower House seats; the original pact was to slash 50 as a move toward political reform.

He also criticized Obuchi for appointing hawkish Liberal Party lawmaker Shingo Nishimura as a Defense Agency vice minister.

Nishimura held the agency post for 15 days before resigning over remarks that suggested Japan should consider arming itself with nuclear weapons. The remarks, in a weekly magazine interview, likened atomic weapons to laws against rape. He went so far as to suggest all men would be rapists without legal deterrents.

Obuchi apologized for having appointed Nishimura during his address at the opening of the Diet session.

On the economic front, Hatoyama pointed to the “reckless” spending of the ruling bloc, claiming the long-term debts of the central and local governments now amount to a whopping 600 trillion yen.

Asked about the government’s responsibility for injecting 4 trillion yen in taxpayers’ money into the bankrupt Long Term Credit Bank of Japan, which will be sold to a U.S. firm for a reported 1 billion yen, Obuchi said the decision was necessary to protect depositors and stabilize the nation’s financial system.

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