Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori on Tuesday threw his support behind a proposal to change the electoral system for proportional representation seats in the House of Councilors before the next election.

“It has been pointed out that (the current system) fails to capture voters’ interests,” he said during questioning in an Upper House plenary session. “The ruling bloc is holding discussions to introduce a system that would raise that interest.”

The tripartite coalition is working on a bill that would revise the current system, which allows voters to cast ballots by party name. Under the new system, voters would choose between voting for candidates according to roster, or for the parties themselves.

The next election will be in July 2001.

The ruling bloc plans to submit the bill during the 72-day extraordinary Diet session that began Thursday.

In Tuesday’s session, Mori also promised to “remain steadfast” in efforts to resolve the issue of alleged abductions of Japanese nationals by North Korean agents.

“The abduction issue cannot be avoided in order to normalize diplomatic relations with North Korea,” he said.

Mori was responding to a comment by Yoshitada Konoike of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, who said Japan should not provide North Korea with more food aid until tangible progress is made in the abduction issue.

Japan and North Korea held a second round of normalization talks in August, but failed to bridge their differences over the alleged abductions and other key issues. Negotiators are scheduled to meet again next month.

Mori also said his government has yet to form any policy over recognizing North Korea’s statehood. He said the question should be studied “in the process of normalizing diplomatic ties with the country.”

He also reiterated his hope that the Diet will enact the ruling bloc’s anticorruption bill during the extraordinary session.

“I hope the bill will be enacted during the current Diet session . . . to recover people’s trust in politics,” Mori said.

Mori dismissed criticism from Toshimi Kitazawa of the Democratic Party of Japan that the bill, submitted to the Diet last week, is full of loopholes.

The bill defines offenses clearly so there is no room for interpretation, but at the same time tries not to hinder lawmakers’ efforts to reflect people’s opinions on the way the country is run, Mori said.

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