An extraordinary session of the Diet in which Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda gave his first policy speech was first scheduled to end last week but has been extended to Sept. 30. Originally the session was to be only four days, but Japan now faces serious problems: the effects of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, including the Fukushima nuclear crisis, and economic difficulties caused by a strong yen and deflation.
The ruling Democratic Party of Japan had chosen to make the session short apparently to reduce difficulties for the newly formed Noda Cabinet. But its tactics have backfired, angering opposition forces and making it difficult to get their cooperation in the Diet.
In his questioning, Liberal Democratic Party head Sadakazu Tanigaki criticized Mr. Noda for choosing such a short duration for the Diet session and not holding Budget Committee sessions, in which wide-ranging matters can be discussed. He called the DPJ and the Noda Cabinet’s behavior a “reckless attempt” to shirk public responsibility. He said such a behavior had wrecked the trustworthy relationship between the ruling and opposition parties.
Mr. Tanigaki also called on the DPJ government to withdraw the DPJ’s election manifesto for the 2009 Lower House election, which he said had lost its legitimacy, and called on Mr. Noda to dissolve the Lower House for a snap election.
Although the Diet has been extended, it seems unlikely that the ruling and opposition forces will agree to cooperate with each other. It is an undesirable situation when Japan needs an early passage of the third supplementary budget for fiscal 2011 to raise funds for reconstruction from the triple disasters.
Upper House President Takeo Nishioka, originally from the DPJ, supported a call by the opposition forces for lengthening the Diet session. He also called the original four-day Diet session a “reckless attempt.” This was an unusual move for the Upper House president, who has to keep a neutral stand.
The opposition forces’ criticism of the DPJ government is understandable because people want to know a lot of things from the government, including how it can achieve both economic recovery and financial reconstruction of the state.
Satisfactorily meeting this and people’s desire for quick actions by the Diet may be difficult. But a principled working compromise should be achieved between ruling and opposition forces. Much depends on Mr. Noda’s leadership.
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