• Kyodo

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An extraordinary Diet session opened Monday to welcome new lawmakers elected last month to the Upper House.

Chuichi Date, former secretary-general of the Liberal Democratic Party’s caucus in the Upper House, was elected the chamber’s president in the morning plenary session, while Akira Gunji, former head of the Upper House caucus of the Democratic Party, was chosen as vice president.

The three-day session will handle procedural matters following the July 10 election, and no full-fledged legislative debate will take place until another extraordinary session is convened in September.

Rookie LDP lawmaker Eriko Imai, a vocalist in the J-pop group Speed that became popular in the 1990s, told reporters she hopes to help achieve the “dreams and hopes of each and every citizen.”

Imai, whose 11-year-old son has impaired hearing, won a seat through the proportional representation segment of the election after pledging to work on child welfare.

Another LDP rookie, Kentaro Asahi, a former Olympic beach volleyball player who won a seat in the Tokyo district, said he will work hard on sports-related policies.

“I believe people are expecting my efforts for (the successful hosting of) the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics,” he said.

Meanwhile, Yoichi Iha, an independent who defeated Aiko Shimajiri, the state minister in charge of issues related to Okinawa, in the Okinawa Prefecture constituency, reiterated his opposition on the relocation of the U.S. Futenma base in the island prefecture.

“I cannot tolerate forcible construction of a military facility against the people’s will,” said Iha. “I will convey Okinawa’s reality to the Diet.”

Hideya Sugio, a former newscaster who won a seat on the Democratic Party ticket, said it felt strange to be on the other side of power. He vowed to work on narrowing economic disparities, bolstering freedom of expression and other issues.

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