With the extended Diet session over, the nation’s political focus has shifted to the July 29 Upper House election. Regrettably, the ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito resorted to forceful Diet tactics during the extended session, depriving the Diet of chances to discuss important bills in depth.
By force of its majority, the coalition rammed through committee votes on bills to scrap the five-year time limit on pension claims and abolish the Social Insurance Agency and then got both bills enacted. In handling a bill to set up a system for regulating the future employment of retiring national public servants, whose passage was pushed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the coalition took the exceptional step of skipping a committee vote and had the Upper House plenary session pass the bill on the basis of a report from the committee chairman.
To give the appearance of resolving the problem of money and politics, which culminated recently with the suicide of agriculture minister Toshikatsu Matsuoka, the coalition passed a bill to revise the Political Funds Control Law. But the bill obliges a politician’s fund-management body to attach a receipt to its funds report only when a running expense payment exceeds 50,000 yen.
The coalition’s efforts to produce tangible results in the Diet as quickly as possible to tide over the Abe administration during a time of declining popularity preempted detailed discussion by the ruling and opposition camps on important matters, including how to improve the pension system. It is incumbent on both camps to present their policies in a concrete manner to the public during the lead-up to the Upper House election.
In addressing issues such as the gaps between the rich and the poor and between urban and rural areas, pensions and health care, financial reconstruction, etc., they must focus their arguments so that their basic political philosophy becomes clear to the public. They also must present their understanding of Japan’s modern history — an important clue for judging their stance on the future issue of constitutional revision.
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