National / Politics

LDP creates code of conduct for its lawmakers, in hope of preventing gaffes

by Magdalena Osumi

Staff Writer

Amid a spate of verbal flubs that have plagued the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party has created a code of conduct for its lawmakers — warning them to watch their mouths to prevent blunders from affecting their political careers.

LDP officials have sent out a notice to party members advising them to exercise caution while making remarks, according to an official overseeing the party’s campaigns, who spoke to The Japan Times by telephone on Wednesday. The official asked that his name be withheld.

“The notes are aimed to instruct (lawmakers) to act to prevent misunderstandings; they are to caution them to choose words carefully and communicate accurately what they want to express so that they are understood correctly,” he said.

He said the notice was shared with all lawmakers within the party and was based on the content of a lecture by a public speaking expert delivered to the LDP lawmakers earlier this year, which was compiled into a single A4-sized sheet of paper.

The notice reportedly touched on topics that need extra care, including personal views on historical interpretations and political ideology, gender and sexual minority issues, remarks related to accidents and disasters and comments about illness and old age.

Slip-ups among ministers in Abe’s administration, followed by their retractions and apologies, had become increasingly routine but have started to exceed what the public is willing to accept.

Former Olympics minister Yoshitaka Sakurada resigned last month after remarks that offended people affected by a massive earthquake and tsunami in 2011. At a fundraising event, Sakurada suggested that an LDP lawmaker from the northeastern region was more important than the region’s recovery.

Sakurada now wants to share the lessons drawn from his own blunders with other lawmakers. At a political gathering held in Tokyo on Tuesday, he called on LDP officials to “train lawmakers that won’t follow suit” after his own gaffes.

“Use them as a bad example,” he said.

Mio Sugita, another LDP lawmaker, drew a fierce backlash after labeling the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community “unproductive” in terms of childbirth, and warning that a society that accepts same-sex relationships risks “increasing unhappy people.”

Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso once advocated using the Nazi party’s tactics to amend Japan’s pacifist Constitution during a speech to an ultranationalist group.

Mishaps are not limited to LDP lawmakers.

On Tuesday, opposition lawmaker Hodaka Maruyama was expelled from his party amid growing criticism over his remarks on the possibility of Japan waging war with Russia to regain control of a group of islands at the center of a territorial spat.

But the LDP has already lost two seats in a by-election for nationwide representatives in April. And amid Abe’s push toward a constitutional revision, further blunders could hinder the party’s efforts to retain its current two-thirds supermajority in the Upper House, which is at stake in the July election.

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