National / Politics

Abe Cabinet survives no-confidence motion in Lower House over handling of pension report

Kyodo

A no-confidence motion against the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was voted down Tuesday in the House of Representatives, with the ruling bloc fending off opposition criticism about the government’s handling of a pension report.

Opposition parties have launched a last-ditch offensive before the regular Diet session ends Wednesday, taking aim at what they say is the Abe administration’s failure to address public concerns about the sustainability of the nation’s pension system.

The motion, submitted earlier in the day, condemned the Cabinet for acting “irresponsibly and extremely dishonestly over issues that directly affect people’s lives,” such as the pension report and the planned consumption tax hike in October.

The opposition groups that submitted the motion include the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, the Democratic Party for the People, the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party. The ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito control the Lower House.

The recent furor came after Finance Minister Taro Aso refused to accept the report, which was penned by a panel of experts under the Financial Services Agency he oversees. The report contained an estimate that an average retired couple would face a shortfall of ¥20 million under the current pension system if they live to be 95 years old.

Aso has insisted that the reason he decided not to accept the report was that it contradicted the government’s position. But opposition party members dismissed that argument, saying the government is seeking to put a lid on inconvenient truths ahead of a House of Councilors election set to take place in July.

The opposition parties also took issue with what they say is the government’s reluctance to fulfill its responsibility to explain the pension issue to the public. They said they have been calling for the budget committees of both houses to hold sessions attended by Abe but to no avail.

“Prime Minister Abe has refused Diet deliberations, and it’s ungraceful that he has been escaping accountability,” the opposition parties wrote in the motion.

It is common for opposition parties to file a no-confidence motion before a Diet session ends.

But some opposition party lawmakers had reservations about submitting the motion, fearing it may provide a reason for Abe to dissolve the powerful lower chamber for an election at a time when opposition forces still appear to be unprepared.

Despite that concern, Abe had said recently that dissolving the Lower House is not on his mind.

Koichi Hagiuda, the LDP’s deputy secretary-general, said at a press conference Tuesday that he sees no reason for the Cabinet to be denounced and urged to resign.

A censure motion against Abe submitted by opposition parties was also voted down in the Upper House on Monday.