During a 51-day extraordinary session, which ended Dec. 9, the Diet passed the third fiscal 2011 supplementary budget and a bill for raising the income tax for 25 years, both aimed at funding reconstruction from the March 11 disasters and the Fukushima nuclear fiasco. The Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito cooperated with the ruling Democratic Party of Japan. In addition, bills to establish a Reconstruction Agency and special reconstruction zones were enacted with revisions.
However, many important bills were carried over to the next Diet session, because the Upper House, controlled by opposition forces, passed censure motions Dec. 9 against Defense Minister Yasuo Ichikawa and consumers affairs minister Kenji Yamaoka. Customarily the opposition refuses to deliberate on state-sponsored bills unless the censured ministers resign. So the government and the DPJ decided not to extend the Diet session.
Both the ruling and opposition parties must consider whether their confrontation was meaningful and contributed to helping the nation overcome the current difficult situation. The government and the ruling and opposition parties must consider taking flexible approaches to problems requiring urgent solution.
The bills carried over to the next Diet session concern, among other subjects, Japan Post reform, dispatched workers, and the reduction of national public servant wages. The government also will present a plan to raise the consumption tax. In addition, both the Lower and Upper houses must quickly rectify the large vote-value gap between the most and least populated constituencies.
As for cutting the fiscal 2011 wages of national public servants, there is room for compromise, since the DPJ and the LDP envisage the same total cut. But the DPJ would make the entire 7.8 percent cut immediately while the LDP would cut wages initially by 0.23 percent, as called for by the National Personnel Authority, and then make a further cut for a total of 7.8 percent.
Both houses of the Diet must hurry to rectify the vote-value gap. If future elections are held without this rectification, the legitimacy of the Diet could become suspect and the Supreme Court could annul election results, throwing Japanese politics into confusion.
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