Ruling and opposition parties agreed Wednesday to briefly reopen both houses of the Diet on Monday for one-off committee deliberations, with plans to quiz a former top education ministry bureaucrat who alleged favoritism by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The agreement came after the main opposition Democratic Party spurned an offer by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party for committee deliberations next Monday or Tuesday, on the grounds that Abe would be unable to attend due to an overseas trip.
“The prime minister not attending is equal to hiding him,” DP policy chief Hiroshi Ogushi said Wednesday. “The government doesn’t seem to be taking the issue seriously.”
Japanese Communist Party chief Kazuo Shii also blasted the move.
“Because the point at issue is whether the prime minister is responsible or not, we are going to demand that the Diet hold a budget committee meeting with the attendance of the prime minister,” Shii told reporters.
Meeting with LDP Diet Affairs Committee Chairman Wataru Takeshita for a second time Tuesday, DP Diet affairs chief Kazunori Yamanoi agreed to hold committee deliberations on Monday after the LDP consented to summoning Kihei Maekawa as an unsworn witness.
Maekawa, a former vice education minister, is likely to be asked about allegations that Abe has used his power as prime minister to help Kake Gakuen (Kake Educational Institution) open a veterinary medicine department in a special economic zone. The president of Kake Gakuen is a close friend of Abe.
Emboldened by the LDP’s crushing defeat in Sunday’s Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election, the Democratic Party and several other opposition parties agreed earlier in the day to call for committee deliberations or a new session of the Diet amid a number of scandals dogging the government and ruling party.
With Abe scheduled to be out of the country until next Wednesday, the committee deliberations on Monday will be held without him. But Takeshita told Yamanoi that the LDP will “consider” holding a later session including the prime minister, Yamanoi said.
The previous Diet session ended last month, but one-off committee deliberations can be held without convening a new session.
Abe is scheduled to attend a summit of the Group of 20 major economies in Germany starting Friday, before visiting several Scandinavian countries and Estonia.
Maekawa, who resigned from his bureaucratic post over an unrelated issue in January, has drawn attention for publicly vouching for the authenticity of ministry documents that point to Abe’s influence in the school construction project.
At their meeting on Tuesday, senior officials of the DP, JCP, Social Democratic Party and Liberal Party also decided to call for the prime minister to dismiss Defense Minister Tomomi Inada over remarks she made during a stump speech that they argue amounted to making political use of the Self-Defense Forces.
The LDP lost its status as the leading force in the Tokyo assembly amid voter frustration with the Abe administration, which has become embroiled in various controversies. In Sunday’s election, popular Gov. Yuriko Koike’s Tomin First no Kai (Tokyoites First) and allies won an overall majority in the 127-seat assembly.
Just days before the vote, Inada asked voters to back an LDP candidate, saying her request was on behalf of “the Defense Ministry, the SDF, the defense minister and the LDP.”
Under the law governing the country’s defense apparatus, the SDF is supposed to remain politically neutral and its personnel are restricted in their ability to engage in political activities.
Also during the campaign period, former education minister Hakubun Shimomura, a close aide to Abe who was responsible for the party’s campaign in the capital, was also reported to have mishandled political donations from Kake Gakuen, a claim he denied.
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