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After lengthy negotiations between the ruling and opposition camps, a Lower House special committee gave its unanimous approval Tuesday to a bill that would ban corporate donations to individual politicians starting Jan. 1.At the same time, the special political reform committee began deliberating a bill to take away 20 proportional representation seats from the Lower House, in hopes it would be approved by the full chamber later in the day. With the move, the ruling camp is hoping to have the seat-cutting legislation enacted by today’s close of the current Diet session. If all goes as intended, there will be no need to extend the session. Their prospects, however, appear uncertain as the opposition camp is poised to submit a no-confidence vote against the Cabinet of Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi if the ruling camp dares to try such forcible enactment. The ruling camp had earlier argued that the political donation bill should be put up for a vote along with other controversial political reform bills, including the Lower House seat-cut bill. The two camps agreed to pass the donation ban only after the ruling parties promised not to ram the other controversial bills through Tuesday’s committee session. The Liberal Party, a member of the ruling coalition, has strongly called for reduction of Lower House seats, threatening to otherwise leave the other partners in the tripartite coalition — the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito. Meanwhile, the opposition camp has argued that deliberation on the political donations ban should come first, and the two camps are waging a political tug-of-war over the schedule for the Diet session. Despite Tuesday’s approval of the political donations bill, the opposition camp is still seeking further legislation to close a loophole left by the ruling camp-proposed legislation. Under the ruling camp’s legislation, individual politicians would still be able to receive corporate donations through local party chapters. A separate bill submitted by the Democratic Party of Japan would close the loophole to the political funds law. Another bill submitted by the Japanese Communist Party totally bans corporate donations to both individual politicians and political parties.

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