The ruling and opposition camps remained apart over the proposed revision of the national referendum law related to constitutional amendment, in Thursday’s free debate at the Commission on the Constitution of the House of Representatives.
The ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner, Komeito, called for the bill to revise the law to be put to a vote quickly in the Diet. But the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan voiced opposition, saying that priority should be given to debates on restrictions on television commercials for national referendums on constitutional amendments.
The day’s session marked the first substantive debate on the matter at the commission since Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga took office in September.
The reform is designed to make it easier for voters to cast their ballots in constitutional referendums by, among other things, setting up polling stations in commercial facilities. The bill was introduced to the Diet in June 2018 mainly by the ruling bloc and Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party), but it has been repeatedly carried over, with no vote taking place.
In Thursday’s meeting, Yoshitaka Shindo of the LDP said that procedures to put the bill to vote should be taken promptly. The TV commercials restrictions and specific constitutional revision items should be discussed after the bill is enacted, Shindo said.
Kazuo Kitagawa of Komeito agreed, saying the bill “should be enacted quickly.”
On the other side of the spectrum, Ikuo Yamahana of the CDP pointed to the lack of fairness in the amounts of TV commercials linked to the Nov. 1 referendum over the so-called Osaka metropolis plan on administrative reforms.
“In the national referendum law, there are some issues that should be reviewed,” Yamahana said, claiming that discussions on TV commercials restrictions are unavoidable.
Seiken Akamine of the Japanese Communist Party also called for cautious deliberations, saying that the amount of TV commercials depends on how much funds a party has.
Meanwhile, Shiori Yamao of the major opposition Democratic Party for the People said that the party will accept an early vote on the bill.
Yamao called on the LDP to conduct, after the vote, additional discussions on restrictions on online ads and ways to restrict donations from foreign nationals to prevent them from influencing constitutional referendums.
Yamao said her party will come up with an outline of a draft for constitutional reforms by the end of the year to help activate deliberations in the Diet.
Another free debate will take place at the Lower House commission next Thursday.
The ruling bloc aims to enact the bill during the ongoing extraordinary Diet session, hoping that the opposition side will take a softer stance following the change of administration.
But it seems unclear if and when the vote will take place, given that the CDP has maintained its cautious stance on the legislation.
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