The Diet last week enacted a law to continue the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s refueling mission in the Indian Ocean and another law to inject capital into regional financial institutions with second votes in the Lower House where the ruling bloc holds a two-third majority.

Although lawmakers may think that this means the current Diet session is for all purposes over, they should acknowledge that they have not sufficiently discussed the serious problems facing the nation. Instead of coasting till Dec. 25, when the current session ends, they should use the remaining time to address these problems.

The refueling law does not require Diet approval of a specific MSDF mission plan. But the Diet failed to fully address a lapse of civilian control over the Self-Defense Forces. It also failed to discuss in detail what Japan can do to help stabilize the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan.

Japan is being battered by the global economic slowdown. A large number of temporary workers are being dismissed, bankruptcies are on the rise, and small and medium-size companies are facing cash-flow problems. Yet the Diet did not engage in any meaningful discussions concerning the nation’s economic crisis.

The main responsibility for this lies with Prime Minister Taro Aso. His policy statements, which lacked consistency, threw a monkey wrench in the ruling bloc’s decision-making process. The government eventually decided to postpone the submission of a second supplementary budget for fiscal 2008 to the next Diet session in January, even though the budget is urgently needed to implement the government’s economic stimulus measures.

Mr. Ichiro Ozawa, leader of the Democratic Party of Japan, pursued a rather rigid Diet tactic in an attempt to corner Mr. Aso to dissolve the Lower House for general elections. By doing so, however, he prevented serious discussions in the Diet. It is deplorable that Mr. Aso and Mr. Ozawa had a one-on-one Diet debate only once during the current session.

Both the ruling and opposition parties should make the most of the time left in the current session to devise measures that can help both business enterprises and workers struggling in a hostile economic environment as well as address other national problems.

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