• Jiji


The ruling and opposition parties are set to forgo making rules on lawmakers' group dining amid the resurging novel coronavirus.

Parliamentary affairs heads of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the largest opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan initially agreed Wednesday to speed up talks on such rules in line with the government's fresh state of emergency in Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures over the pandemic.

But the momentum fizzled out soon, after they encountered a barrage of criticism on the internet, with some saying, "Do lawmakers need rules in order to refrain from group dining?"

On Thursday, ruling and opposition lawmakers discussed drawing up group dining rules at a board meeting of the steering committee of the House of Representatives.

Members of the CDP and other opposition parties called for agreement on refraining from dining in groups. LDP lawmakers voiced opposition, saying that each lawmaker should act on his or her own accord. Concluding the meeting, the LDP's Tsuyoshi Takagi, head of the steering committee, said, "Lawmakers should act by themselves with a sense of responsibility."

At a board meeting of the steering committee of the House of Councilors, Toshiei Mizuochi, an LDP lawmaker and chairman of the committee, sought to bring the issue up for discussion. But the move was rejected by CDP lawmakers who said that making rules would "send the wrong message."

The Diet affairs chiefs of the LDP and CDP had initially considered a rule that dining sessions among lawmakers should end before 8 p.m. while up to four people should be allowed to attend.

But Toshio Nakagawa, head of the Japan Medical Association, called on lawmakers to fully forgo group dinners. The remark was followed by a flurry of online criticism of the lawmakers' moves.

"If we continue discussions, we'll face further criticism," a lawmaker said. "The talks are over."

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