With the crucial Upper House election looming next month, the House of Representatives approved a controversial bill Thursday aimed at curbing “amakudari,” the notorious practice of handing retiring top bureaucrats lucrative jobs in private-sector firms and quasi-government entities in the sectors they oversaw.

The bill’s passage next through the House of Councilors is a priority for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose scandal-rocked administration is desperate to appeal to voters before the July 22 poll.

But many politicians say there isn’t enough time to discuss the bill. The chamber must pass it while the Diet is in session, but the Diet closes for the year on June 23.

With the Upper House heading into the election, the bill will automatically die if it is not passed by then.

If the bill dies, Abe’s decision to have it deliberated in the Upper House will prove to be a double-edged sword.

Although Abe has ruled out calling for a Diet extension, it happens almost every year.

“I don’t have a plan to extend the session for the moment. I want them to do their best to pass the bill by the end of the session,” Abe told reporters earlier this week.

The bill calls for the government to create a job center under the direct supervision of the Cabinet secretariat by the end of 2008. Over the next three years, the ministries would then gradually hand over the task of helping their bureaucrats land new jobs.

Critics say this will only obfuscate the amakudari process and fail to dent its prevalence.

The opposition said the LDP’s bill would effectively authorize amakudari.

“There is no need to set up a Hello Work exclusively for bureaucrats,” Hidekatsu Yoshii of the Japanese Communist Party told the Lower House.

For related stories:

Cabinet OKs ‘amakudari’ bill, bureaucrat reform
‘Amakudari’ bill ready Lower House panel OKs revising law
‘Amakudari’ too entrenched to curb?

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