As Diet deliberations go into full swing, it is imperative for the opposition forces to grill Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on important issues that he only perfunctory touched on or did not mention at all in his policy speech at the outset of the current extraordinary Diet session which started Sept. 29. Abe avoided delving into controversial topics in an apparent attempt to avoid public criticism.
In particular the opposition should focus on the July 1 Cabinet decision to change the long-standing government interpretation of the Constitution’s war-renouncing Article 9 to allow Japan to carry out military missions abroad under collective self-defense and whether the Abe administration will raise the consumption tax rate from the current 8 percent to 10 percent in October 2015. The opposition should make serious efforts to expose Abe’s sly tactics and missteps, and compel him to clarify questionable points in relation to these and other vital issues, such as problems related to the state secrets law, which goes into force in December.
In his policy speech, Abe skipped mentioning the July 1 Cabinet decision and instead said, “Japan will make even greater contributions than ever to world peace and stability, working hand-in-hand with the United States and other countries with which we share fundamental values such as freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. On that basis, we will resolutely secure the lives and the peaceful daily lives of the people under any circumstances. Grounded in that determination, we will move forward in our preparations to develop seamless security legislation.”
The opposition forces should point out Abe’s move to gut the spirit and principle of Article 9 without going through the constitutional procedure for revising the nation’s highest law, and thus undermining the foundation of Japan’s democracy. They should also raise the problems with the behind-the-door negotiations between the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito running up to the Cabinet decision. The opposition should also question Abe about his agenda of “proactive contribution to peace,” which will likely involve the Self-Defense Forces in overseas military missions.
The Abe administration decided to postpone the submission of bills — including a revision of the SDF Law — that are necessary to implement the Cabinet decision to allow Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense to the next ordinary Diet session in 2015 in hopes of avoiding a negative impact on the ruling coalition in a series of local elections to be held in the spring of 2015. The opposition needs to criticize such political tactics and pressure the prime minister to clarify the nature of the planned bills.
In his policy speech, Abe also avoided referring to the on-going Fukushima nuclear crisis because he doesn’t want to remind people of the difficulty inherent in control of nuclear power generation and its damaging effect on local residents. The opposition should ask Abe tough questions about the efforts to decommission the devastated Fukushima nuclear power plant, which have been slowed by the persistent leakage of contaminated water into the environment.
Although Abe must decide by the end of this year whether to go ahead with the second round of the consumption tax hike, he made no mention of it in the speech. The opposition forces need to draw Abe into discussions on whether it is appropriate to again raise the consumption tax rate given how consumers responded to the April 1 hike from 5 percent to 8 percent by tightening their purse strings, how rising prices of imported items — including fuel — are causing households’ net incomes to decline, and how the government is overspending on public-works projects.
The opposition should realize that if it fails to strictly scrutinize the Abe administration’s actions, it is not fulfilling its duty to serve the public.
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