• Kyodo


The Diet returned to business as usual Tuesday as major opposition parties ended their 18-day boycott of parliamentary debates over the government’s handling of cronyism scandals involving Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The ruling bloc is now expected to hurry to pass its labor reform bill, promoted by Abe as his top priority in the ongoing Diet session through June 20, while members of the opposition are expected to grill the government over favoritism allegations against the prime minister in connection with school projects.

Lawmakers of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and other opposition parties attending the day’s plenary session, with the government explaining a set of bills to ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership — a free trade pact that Japan and 10 other member counties signed in March following the United States’ withdrawal.

“As the Diet is deliberating labor reform and other bills crucial to the lives of the people, we will provide detailed explanations (about them) at the request of the Diet,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference.

The government seeks the passage of the bill to revise eight work-style related laws in the Lower House ahead of deliberations in the Upper House.

During the current Diet session, it also aims to pass a bill that will pave the way for casinos to be operated in the nation as part of “integrated resorts” that encompass hotels, conference rooms and event facilities, in an attempt to lure more overseas visitors and boost regional economies.

But it is unclear whether these plans will go smoothly due to a shortage of deliberation time.

The normalization of the Diet came a day after the ruling and opposition parties agreed to summon Tadao Yanase, a former secretary to Abe, to the Diet as an unsworn witness on Thursday to testify about a veterinary school project run by a close friend of the prime minister.Kake Educational Institution, run by Abe’s old friend Kotaro Kake, last month opened a new department of veterinary medicine at its Okayama University of Science in a specially deregulated zone in Imabari in Ehime Prefecture.

Yanase, who now serves as vice minister for international affairs at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, is alleged to have recommended local government officials go ahead with the plan to set up the department by saying it was a “matter concerning the prime minister.”

Abe is suspected of using his position to influence the government approval process for the school, which was set up as the first new veterinary department in Japan in half a century, but he has repeatedly denied the allegation.

The opposition forces have stayed away from parliamentary debates to protest the government’s handling of the veterinary school matter and other political scandals, as it had refused to summon Yanase and other key figures.

In previous testimony before the Diet, Yanase said he did not remember meeting the local officials over the school issue.

Yanase is now expected to correct his explanation and admit that he met with Kake officials at the Prime Minister’s Office on April 2, 2015, while maintaining that he never referred to the project as “the prime minister’s matter,” a ruling party source said.