Fukuda brushes off fresh election push


Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda on Monday rebuffed renewed opposition demands in the Diet that he call a Lower House election and criticism that his administration has not pursued policies that benefit the public.

The latest call came from Democratic Party of Japan Secretary General Yukio Hatoyama as he kicked off debate in a Lower House plenary session over the policy speech Fukuda made Friday to open the Diet session.

Fukuda offered nothing specific about an election except that he would consider how a poll could be held without disrupting the economy.

“What’s important is not to talk about the timing of an election but to discuss thoroughly among all parties and agree on the best policies for the public,” he said.

Hatoyama charged that Fukuda’s Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling coalition has not introduced policies that would improve the people’s lives.

“The nation was hit by the surge in crude oil and gasoline prices, (but) this government has not cared too much about the lives of the public or the economy. It simply focused on giving free oil to American and other naval ships in the Indian Ocean,” he said, referring to the law passed this month to allow the Maritime Self-Defense Force to resume its mission supporting antiterrorism operations in and around Afghanistan.

The ruling bloc twice extended the extraordinary Diet session through Jan. 15 to pass the law and thereby enable the mission to resume.

Hatoyama lashed out at the ruling bloc for using its two-thirds majority in the Lower House to override the rejection of the law by the Upper House, which is controlled by the DPJ-led opposition camp.

“If the government had used even one-tenth of the energy it spent to enact the antiterrorism law to resolve the lost pension records issue, many people would have been (helped),” Hatoyama said.

He said the DPJ plans to focus on issues closely linked to the lives of the public during this legislative session, especially taxes related to automobiles.

The use of gas and other auto-related tax revenues has been limited to road construction and repairs since 1954.

Extra rates have been imposed on those taxes since the 1970s, supposedly as a temporary measure, but have remained in place ever since. Although the special rates are to expire at the end of March, Fukuda said Friday he plans to extend them.