The ruling coalition on Friday began deliberations in the Diet on a contentious bill to revise the Upper House electoral system after a violent confrontation with the boycotting opposition, whose members tried to block the door to a committee meeting room.
With the Diet boycott in its fifth day, the ruling bloc sent the bill to an Upper House special committee where deliberations commenced immediately without the opposition represented.
The situation turned violent earlier in the day as opposition lawmakers attempted to prevent members of the ruling bloc from attending a meeting of an Upper House steering committee to set the day’s Diet proceedings.
In what ended up as a push-and-shove battle, at least two lawmakers and 10 Diet guards were slightly injured.
The ruling bloc — the Liberal Democratic Party, New Komeito and the New Conservative Party — also took advantage of the opposition’s absence Friday from the House of Representatives to send another contentious bill, a revision of the Juvenile Law, to a Lower House committee.
The electoral reform bill, which provoked the confrontation between the ruling and opposition camps, would revise the proportional representation segment of Upper House elections.
Under the current system, parties determine in advance the priority of candidates on their rosters.
The ruling coalition now wants this system scrapped and in its place have a system under which voters select either a specific candidate or a party.
Specifically, parties would be allocated seats based on the number of votes they or their candidates receive. They would then allocate seats to candidates in accordance with their respective performance in the election.
The ruling bloc contends that such a system would better reflect voters’ wishes.
The opposition, however, says it would result in candidates facing costly nationwide campaigning. They also claim the ruling camp’s move violates an agreement reached in February between the ruling and opposition camps that the electoral system won’t be changed until after next year’s Upper House election.
Speaking to reporters later in the day, opposition members attributed Friday’s clash to the large number of Diet guards — an estimated 100 — deployed to handle their protest.
The increased security presence unnecessarily induced the chaos, they said.
With the ruling and opposition camps unable to find common ground, the focus is shifting to whether the opposition will continue its boycott and even skip the one-on-one debate between Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori and opposition leaders slated for Wednesday.
“We will not bend our principles by striking an unsatisfactory compromise,” LDP Secretary General Hiromu Nonaka told a press conference.
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