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POLITICS

Abe forgoes extraordinary Diet session, prioritizes diplomacy, economy

  • 2015-11-13 15:00:00
  • , Nikkei
  • Translation

(Nikkei: November 13, 2015 – p. 4)

 

 Despite strong demands from the opposition camp, the government and the ruling parties decided on November 12 to forgo convening an autumn Diet session for the first time in 10 years. During this period of adjournment, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will go on a series of overseas trips and concentrate on working out economic measures. Meanwhile, the government plans to convene an ordinary Diet session on January 4, earlier than usual. By filling his calendar with diplomatic and domestic appointments, Abe is set to dodge the criticism from the opposition parties that the government is trying to avoid debating with them.

 

 Abe and Liberal Democratic Party Secretary-General Sadakazu Tanigaki met in the afternoon of November 12 and confirmed that the Diet will not meet for an extraordinary session this fall. Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi also supported this.

 

 The decision was made after the budget committees at the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors completed two-day deliberations, which were held while the Diet was not in session, on November 11.

 

 The committees mainly discussed the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact and the money scandal involving Minister for Reconstruction Tsuyoshi Takagi. The government had anticipated it would be grilled by the opposition camp on these issues. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a press conference: “We were able to provide detailed explanations on the domestic challenges facing the country.”

 

 On the diplomatic front, Abe has been busy traveling overseas since October. He visited central Asian countries. He also met the leaders of China and South Korea. From November 13 to November 23, he will go to Turkey to attend the G20 summit and travel to the Philippines to meet the leaders of the Asia Pacific Economic Forum. Later this month, he will visit France to attend the COP21 session to be held in Paris. In mid-December, he will go to India. Plans are also underway for him to visit Iran later this year or early next year. Such a schedule would not have been possible if the Diet had met for an extraordinary session.

 

 Abe is also planning to flesh out his signature program to create a “society with dynamic engagement of all citizens” and TPP related measures later this month to incorporate them into supplementary budgets for the current fiscal year. He will also lead efforts to iron out differences within the ruling parties over reduced tax rates, which will be introduced along with a planned sales tax hike in April 2017, and the corporate tax reform. He envisages coming up with a grand vision by mid-December.

 

 The economic measures will become a focal point of discussions at the next Diet session. If the government can enact related bills and a budgetary bill for fiscal 2016, along with supplementary budgets for the current fiscal year, it will be able to gain momentum for the Upper House elections to be held in the summer. Thus far, things have turned out in accordance with what it had anticipated. While it avoided having Diet debate with the opposition camp, it is preparing itself for the January Diet session. But there are concerns within the LDP that the opposition parties may mount a full attack at the cabinet minister once an ordinary Diet session is convened.

 

 Opposition argues not holding Diet session violates Constitution

 

 The Democratic Party of Japan, the Japan Innovation Party, the Japanese Communist Party, the Social Democratic Party and the People’s Life Party met on November 12 to demand the ruling parties hold an extraordinary Diet session. The secretaries-general of the four parties and head of the secretariat at the JCP confirmed that it is a clear violation of the Constitution if the government does not accommodate the request. Later, Yukio Edano, secretary-general at the DPJ, discussed with his LDP counterpart Tanigaki over the phone. The ruling parties and the five opposition parties will meet early next week.

 

 The opposition camp demands the Diet be convened based on Article 53 of the Constitution, which stipulates that the government is responsible for convening the Diet at the request of at least of a quarter of members either from the Lower or Upper House. (Abridged)

 

Tentative political schedule

Nov. 13-16

Attend G20 summit in Turkey

Nov. 17

Return to Japan

Nov. 18-20

Attend APEC summit in Philippines

Nov. 21-23

Attend East Asia Summit in Malaysia

Nov. 25

Finalize grand vision on TPP

Late Nov.

Finalize economic measures for “dynamic engagement of all citizens”

Nov. 29 – Dec. 2

Visit Europe for COP21

Dec. 11-13?

Visit India

Mid-Dec.

Finalize tax reform vision on reduced tax rates and corporate taxes

Late-Dec.

Draft budgets for fiscal 2016

Jan. 4, 2016?

Convene ordinary Diet session

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