The ruling coalition parties on Wednesday submitted a watered-down version of a postal services deregulation bill to the House of Representatives.
The postal legislative package — the centerpiece of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s administration — is expected to clear the Lower House as early as Tuesday and be enacted by the end of the month.
The package of four bills has sparked heavy debate between the reform-minded Koizumi and the “resistance forces” within his Liberal Democratic Party.
While two of the bills have survived intact, the other two have been revised, one in a way that effectively strengthens the government’s mail monopoly.
The revised bills were jointly submitted to the Lower House committee on posts and telecommunications by the LDP, New Komeito and the New Conservative Party.
The coalition also proposed holding a vote on the revised bill and another postal services bill on Thursday, but the opposition camp rejected the proposal, saying the committee has not had enough time to deliberate them.
At an extraordinary meeting earlier in the day, the LDP’s Executive Council approved Tuesday’s revisions to the bill that would establish a public corporation next year to temporarily take over state-run postal services.
One of the revisions means that the number of post offices would be maintained “throughout the country” after the entity is set up. The public corporation would also be allowed to make investments in subsidiaries “closely linked to postal services.”
Another bill, which would allow private firms to enter the mail delivery service, but only under strict conditions, was left unchanged.
The LDP’s Executive Council criticized a clause in the revision, penned by its policymaking committee on postal services, that calls for slapping a four-year ban on discussing the privatization of the public postal body once it is established.
On Tuesday, Koizumi flatly refused to accept the clause, and the ruling bloc executives later agreed to omit it.
Meanwhile, Hiroyuki Arai expressed his intent to step down as chairman of the LDP’s posts and telecommunications policy council, as well as from the Lower House posts and telecommunications committee, for failing to execute the LDP council’s demands during the negotiations.
Koizumi expressed hope the party would “freely” discuss the future of postal savings and “kampo” life insurance.
“There have always been voices of strong opposition toward the legislation within the party,” Koizumi told reporters. “But it is only natural (in the course of) carrying out reform.”
The Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition party, decided Wednesday to oppose the bills.
The decision was made at a hastily gathered meeting of the shadow Cabinet, the body with the final say on DPJ policies.
“The revisions made by the ruling bloc clearly go against (the idea) of promoting private firms’ entry into the mail delivery business,” said Katsuya Okada, the DPJ’s policy affairs chief.
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