National / Politics

Abe survives censure motion by opposition over controversial pension report

Kyodo

A censure motion against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, submitted by opposition parties over his finance minister’s refusal to accept a report suggesting pensions are inadequate for most retirees, was voted down in the House of Councilors on Monday.

The motion was submitted last Friday, as opposition parties launched a last-minute offensive before the end of the current Diet session Wednesday and an Upper House election in July. The measure was intended to challenge the Abe government’s reluctance to address public concerns about the sustainability of the public pension system.

The motion criticized the government’s “arrogant political stance that takes the people and the Diet lightly,” saying “the situation is so serious that it cannot be tolerated.”

Finance Minister Taro Aso’s blocking of the report was “a clear reflection of the prime minister’s political attitude,” it said.

A panel of experts estimated in the report that an average retired couple would face a shortfall of ¥20 million ($186,000) under the current pension system if they live to be 95 years old.

The parties that submitted the motion to the Upper House included the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, the Democratic Party for the People and the Japanese Communist Party. The ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito control both houses of the Diet.

The pension issue has been highlighted since Aso rejected the panel’s report earlier this month. The panel was set up under the Financial Services Agency he oversees.

Aso argued the report contradicted the government’s stance that the pension system is able to meet “to some extent” people’s household financial requirements in retirement, and had caused “extreme worries and misunderstanding.”

Abe has labeled the estimate “misleading,” saying it was an average figure presented without context.

The report comes as the Abe administration pursues a policy of creating a society in which people can live to the age of 100 without financial concerns. Abe has said that the government has been reforming the pension system to ensure its sustainability, and that it is able to respond to the needs of people with diverse lifestyles.

On Friday, Aso escaped an opposition-submitted censure motion in the Upper House and a no-confidence motion in the House of Representatives.

Meanwhile, the CDPJ asked other opposition parties Monday morning to jointly submit to the Lower House a no-confidence motion against the Cabinet, but they decided that each party should hold its own discussions on the proposal.

Some opposition lawmakers are cautious about the moves as they believe submitting a no-confidence motion would prompt Abe to dissolve the powerful chamber for an election. Despite months of speculation, Abe said recently that dissolving the Lower House was not on his mind.