The Lower House on Tuesday extended the current Diet session by 55 days through July 28. Prime Minister Taro Aso had decided on the extension and got the consent of Mr. Akihiro Ota, leader of Komeito, the Liberal Democratic Party’s junior coalition partner.

The Democratic Party of Japan has decided not to unreasonably resist participation in discussions on important bills such as those related to the fiscal 2009 supplementary budget, another to enable the Self-Defense Forces to deal with pirates more flexibly than at present, and one to revise the law on kokumin nenkin — pensions mainly for self-employed and jobless people. Thus the DPJ will likely agree to let the ruling camp pass these bills without a hitch.

By letting important bills be enacted early, the DPJ plans to take advantage of an expected “political vacuum” in the remaining days of the Diet session. On June 1, it submitted to the Diet a bill to prohibit political donations from firms and labor unions in three years and restrict “inheritance” of election machines. It apparently wishes to impress voters with the LDP’s reluctance to clearly resolve these matters.

Rather than engage in petty political maneuvering, the ruling and opposition camps should hold thorough Diet deliberations and clearly state their positions in a manner that will allow voters to decide how to vote in the coming Lower House election.

Mr. Aso’s decision concerning the Diet session extension is politically significant. He decided not to extend the Diet session through early August, which would have enabled the ruling coalition to take a second vote in the Lower House to enact bills voted down by the opposition-controlled Upper House. The message here is that if the opposition camp does not cooperate in Diet deliberations, he will dissolve the Lower House.

To prepare for the Lower House election, which will come anyhow in a few months, the political parties need to articulate their election pledges based on concrete revenue sources, including social security reforms, measures to cope with poverty and bureaucratic reforms.

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