National

Eight-day extraordinary Diet session opens

The Diet opened Friday for an extraordinary session that will run for eight days until Aug. 6, as decided by the ruling bloc.

The opposition camp had wanted the first session since the July 11 Upper House election to run for more than a month to allow for deliberations on the contentious pension reforms, deployment of ground troops to Iraq and the political fund scandal involving the largest faction of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, but the LDP-New Komeito coalition vetoed this.

The ruling alliance also turned down an opposition demand for televised Budget Committee sessions.

The House of Councilors elected Chikage Ogi, an LDP member, as its first female president, and Giichi Tsunoda of the Democratic Party of Japan as vice president. Both suspended their party affiliations when they assumed the posts.

It also set up special committees and selected new heads.

The DPJ, the largest opposition force, submitted bills to the Diet on Friday to scrap the government pension reform legislation that was enacted last month.

The move is seen as a political gesture for the DPJ’s supporters, as the party, which is demanding that the contentious pension reform legislation be repealed, won more seats than the LDP in the Upper House poll.

The ruling bloc, which maintains a majority in both Diet chambers, is set to vote down the DPJ’s bills after two days of deliberations at a welfare committee and plenary session of the Lower House.

“A consensus of voters supports abolition of the pension legislation,” DPJ Secretary General Hirohisa Fujii told a general party meeting Friday.

Celebrity Diet debuts

Newly elected celebrity lawmakers made their Diet debuts Friday as the legislature convened for a brief extraordinary session in the wake of the July 11 House of Councilors election.

“Politics is as serious as sports,” said Kenji Ogiwara, a 34-year-old Olympic gold medalist in Nordic combined skiing. Ogiwara won his Upper House seat as a member of the Liberal Democratic Party.

“I would like to be active in a wide range of areas, from sports and education to welfare and health care,” he said.

Meanwhile, Okinawan singer Shokichi Kina, 56, donned an ancient costume of the Ryukyu Dynasty, which ruled Okinawa centuries ago.

“I would like to establish an identity for Japan that should have frank bargaining with the United States, China and other Asian nations,” said Kina, a member of the Democratic Party of Japan.

Renho, 36, a former newscaster, said, “The time has come at last for me to launch into politics.” Renho called for development of better conditions for child-rearing mothers while campaigning for a Diet seat on the DPJ ticket earlier this month.

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