The first tangible effect of the Democratic Party of Japan’s victory in the July 29 Upper House election has come in the selection of veteran DPJ councilor Mr. Satsuki Eda as president of the chamber. For the first time since 1956, the Liberal Democratic Party has given up the post to an opposition party. DPJ lawmaker Mr. Takeo Nishioka, a former education minister, was chosen as chairman of the Upper House steering committee, another key post for managing the Upper House.

The LDP will no longer be able to force bills through the Diet as it did in the last regular Diet session. In the Upper House, the DPJ now can vote down bills passed by the ruling coalition in the Lower House and send them back to the Lower House. Theoretically, the LDP-Komeito coalition, which occupies more than two-thirds of the Lower House, could enact into law those bills that are sent back, but it would be politically difficult for the coalition to do so repeatedly. The DPJ can also pass bills authored by it through the Upper House first and send them to the Lower House. The No. 1 opposition party can let the people see what the ruling coalition will do with such bills. One such DPJ-sponsored bill would prohibit the government from using pension premiums for other purposes than paying pensions.

The new Diet situation means that the LDP will have to compromise with the DPJ to get bills passed. It also means that the DPJ’s reliability as a political party will be severely tested. If it plays a number game in the Upper House, such as delaying discussions on bills sent from the Lower House, or indulges in political maneuvers merely to force Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to dissolve the Lower House and call general elections, it will lose voters’ trust.

If it properly uses its power, however, the DPJ can rejuvenate the Diet as the highest organ of state power in the true sense of the word. The opposition party should fully utilize the power of the Diet to “conduct investigations related to government” and “demand the presence and testimony of witnesses, and the production of records,” as provided by Article 62 of the Constitution.

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