(Asahi: June 23, 2015 – p. 4)
The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has decided to extend the current ordinary Diet session by 95 days to ensure the passage of security related bills. Abe is hoping that deliberating on the bills in the longest Diet session since the end of World War II will help address new anxieties involving the Japan Innovation Party (JIP) and the House of Councilors.
Abe initially had in mind the option of extending the Diet through August 10. He conveyed this to Liberal Democratic Party Secretary-General Sadakazu Tanigaki and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga when they met on June 19.
But Tanigaki apparently proposed extending the Diet through late August or early September due to requests from the LDP Upper House caucus for sufficient deliberation time. The consensus reached among the three politicians on this day was that closing the Diet on August 10 was not an option.
The Prime Minister’s Office told senior LDP members on June 20 that the Diet should be extended through the end of September on account of the fact that an ordinary Diet session is only allowed to be extended once in principle. “If the bills are to be thoroughly deliberated, the Diet should be extended for a longer period,” said a senior government official.
Abe decided to keep the current session open for a longer period, because he is not sure whether deliberations on the bill will go smoothly in the Upper House and [the government] will be able to win the backing of the JIP.
The LDP lacks a single majority in the Upper House. Fears were spreading among senior Upper House members of the LDP that if the ruling parties railroad the bills and send them to the Upper House, the opposition camp may not to agree to discuss them for a long period. “The Upper House caucus of the LDP is not ready to press ahead with Diet deliberations even if they meet objections from the opposition force,” said a senior member from the LDP Diet Affairs Council.
The government envisages a “60-day rule,” which allows the bills that are not put to a vote in the Upper House 60 days after their passage in the Lower House to be voted on again with a two-thirds majority in the Lower House. It resorted to the tactic of securing longer-than-anticipated time for Diet extension and ostensibly underscoring that the legislation is being deliberated thoroughly so the Upper House can save face.
Last week, Suga met with senior JIP members three nights in a row in an attempt to gain the party’s backing of the bills through amendments or at least persuade it to to put them to a vote if it opposes. But many of the party’s members, including leader Yorihisa Matsuno, are aligned with the opposition force. “Suga might have thought it would be difficult to seek the cooperation of JIP to extend the Diet session,” a senior JIP member said.
JIP Member Takayuki Ochiai lashed out at the government when he spoke against extending the Diet session at a Lower House plenary session. “Allocating sufficient time to deliberate on the bills is a mere formality,” he said. “The government is trying to pass the bills under the 60-day rule, regardless of whether they receive the public understanding or not. It’s true motive is evident.” (Abridged)