Two opposition parties boycotted Friday’s plenary session of the House of Representatives to protest remarks made by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on pension reform.
The Democratic Party of Japan and the Social Democratic Party refused to take part in the day’s deliberations, stating that Koizumi needs to clarify comments made to the chamber the day before.
The prime minister voiced support for a future integration of the nation’s three pension systems, while also urging the legislature to pass government-sponsored bills to revise the existing pension scheme.
The opposition parties described the government-sponsored legislation as “patchwork measures,” saying the nation’s pension system is in need of a more comprehensive overhaul.
When asked whether the government-sponsored legislation and the integration of the existing pension programs — which has been proposed by the DPJ — are consistent, Koizumi only repeated Thursday that it would not be contradictory for the government to discuss pension integration after the Diet passes the contentious legislation.
“The battle against the pension legislation has finally begun,” DPJ leader Naoto Kan told party lawmakers at a meeting ahead of the scheduled start of Friday’s plenary session.
“I firmly believe that pensions will be the biggest focal point of Lower House by-elections (later this month) and the (July) House of Councilors election.”
The DPJ has said it will boycott all Lower House committee sessions and plenary sessions until the government agrees to have the prime minister explain his remarks regarding pension integration before the plenary session of the chamber.
The move is widely seen as an attempt by the DPJ, which is planning to present its own pension reform proposals to the Diet as early as April 9, to keep the Diet from debating the government-sponsored bills until then.
Thursday’s boycott decision marked a complete turnaround in the party’s Diet strategy. Up to now, the party has opted to meet the ruling bloc head-on in Diet debates, based on its view that boycotts are unbefitting of a party that has declared itself capable of taking the reins of government.
But this tactic has drawn fire, even among veteran DPJ members, for resulting in a lack of “healthy tension” between the ruling and opposition camps in Diet debates.