• SHARE

The ruling coalition rammed controversial pension reform bills through a Lower House welfare committee on Friday amid a boycott by opposition parties.

Dozens of angry opposition lawmakers mobbed committee chairman Kazuo Eguchi of the Liberal Democratic Party, trying in vain to prevent a vote on the bills at the committee meeting Friday night.

But Yutaka Fukushima of New Komeito read out a prepared text explaining the pension reform bills, and Eguchi declared the bills passed with support from the ruling coalition — the LDP, Liberal Party and New Komeito.

The passage came only a day after the first public hearing on the bills was held at the Diet.

The pension reforms were proposed by the coalition to curb benefits doled out by the financially troubled public pension system. The cuts would amount to 20 percent in 2025.

“The forcible voting totally ignored the role a parliament should play,” claimed Tatsuo Kawabata, the Diet affairs committee chairman from the Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition force.

The DPJ, the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party immediately announced that they will continue boycotting any further deliberations both at the Lower House and the Upper House unless the ruling camp withdraws the welfare committee vote.

The ruling coalition, however, occupies more than two-thirds of the Lower House, and the bills are expected to clear a plenary session next week.

Opposition lawmakers criticized the ruling camp’s move as “violence with strength in numbers,” arguing the huge coalition ignored due process to form a consensus with minority forces in the Diet.

But the ruling camp argued that it was the opposition camp that tried to block the voting session by force, mobilizing dozens of lawmakers to obstruct Diet proceedings.

The day’s confusion started around 9:45 in the morning when opposition lawmakers began occupying a narrow corridor of a Diet building to block the committee chairman’s entrance to the welfare committee room.

When Eguchi finally made his way to the room an hour later, opposition lawmakers stormed around him inside the room, leaving him unable to take his seat.

The row continued for more than an hour, but the ruling camp unilaterally declared the committee open shortly past noon and immediately put the session into recess to unsnarl the confusion.

The ruling parties, however, resumed the session at 6:20 p.m to put the bills to a vote, apparently fearing that further delay and confusion could affect other important bills, such as those concerning a second supplementary budget.

“More confusion is expected from now on (at the Diet), and if something happens, it will be the ruling coalition that must be held responsible,” said DPJ Secretary General Tsutomu Hata, adding that his party will strongly demand the earliest-possible dissolution of the Lower House.

“A hearing is supposed to hear opinions from the public and reflect them on bills,” Hata said earlier in the day, criticizing the committee chairman, who earlier in the week used his own discretion in deciding to hold the hasty vote.

“It’s a very imprudent way of thinking that regards public hearings as a mere formality,” Hata said.

He claimed that the ruling coalition is reluctant to discuss social welfare issues because doing so would demonstrate inconsistencies in the three parties’ policies.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.

SUBSCRIBE NOW