As talks with opposition parties began to break down Friday, the LDP-Liberal Party-New Komeito coalition went ahead and submitted a controversial seat-reduction bill to the Diet. Meanwhile, the Liberal Party and New Komeito jointly submitted another controversial bill — one that would give permanent foreign residents the right to vote in local elections. Confusion and deadlock is expected when Diet deliberations begin Monday, if they begin at all. Following the ruling bloc’s submission of the seat-reduction bill, the opposition parties hinted they would boycott all sessions in both Diet chambers starting Monday if the ruling camp tried to convene a Lower House committee to deliberate the bill. If the lawmakers do go through with the threat, coalition party lawmakers run the risk of appearing dictatorial by using the opportunity to ram the bills into law. To avoid this appearance, some observers say, Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi could opt to dissolve the Lower House. The bill would cut 20 proportional representation seats from the Lower House, seats that smaller parties count on to maintain their numbers. The Liberal Party is advocating the move in the hopes that it would indeed pare small parties and lead to a strong, two-party democracy. Meanwhile, in submitting the minority suffrage bill, New Komeito and the Liberal Party failed to secure the consent of the dominant LDP, which has many conservative members opposed to minority suffrage. New Komeito Secretary General Tetsuzo Fuyushiba nevertheless said he expects the LDP will eventually persuade its members and support the bill when it is put to a vote. The bill would give local suffrage to so-called permanent foreign residents, excluding those from North Korea, with which Japan has no diplomatic relations. The bill was originally submitted to the previous session.
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