The Diet got off to a stormy start Monday when opposition lawmakers walked out of a House of Representatives plenary session to protest Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s unsatisfactory answers to their questions.
Boos and jeers filled the air shortly after the session kicked off in the afternoon when Koizumi effectively refused to answer questions from Katsuya Okada, leader of the Democratic Party of Japan, that he asked in response to Koizumi’s policy speech on Friday, the day the Diet convened.
After Koizumi finished replying to Okada’s earlier queries concerning such issues as pension reform, postal privatization, the situation in Iraq and political funding, Okada asked nine followup questions.
He said the prime minister’s replies lacked specifics.
He demanded that Koizumi elaborate on his earlier statements and questioned, for example, what will happen to the massive amount of government bonds held by Japan Post when it is privatized in 2007.
“I clearly answered the followup questions from Mr. Okada” in the first round of replies, was all Koizumi said before returning to his seat.
The response led to a roar of anger from opposition lawmakers. Representatives of the various parties gathered around Speaker Yohei Kono to try to clear up the situation.
But Koizumi only made matters worse by stepping up to the podium twice to make supplementary explanations amid the interruption to the session.
“I understand that Mr. Okada and the DPJ may have some views regarding the followup questions,” Koizumi initially said. “But my views (regarding the responses) remain unchanged.”
When he returned to the podium, he said that while he can understand that the opposition might be dissatisfied with his responses, he believed he had replied to all of Okada’s questions.
DPJ and Social Democratic Party lawmakers then walked out.
The Lower House speaker reopened the plenary session later in the afternoon, telling Koizumi to respond sincerely to questions and allowing Okada to ask additional questions.
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