Until around 2000, one of the key items being considered for Upper House reform was the idea that Upper House members should not be selected for cabinet posts or that they should reject cabinet appointments.
It goes without saying that both chambers of the Diet are very conscious of how cabinet posts are allocated when cabinet reshuffles are carried out.
Under the bicameral legislature, allowing the Upper House to maintain its dignity and focus on government monitoring and legislation without participating in the cabinet is a lofty approach. However, this has never been the case.
Although the ruling parties won in the recent Upper House election, what put a damper on the ruling camp’s victory was the fact that two incumbent cabinet ministers lost their Upper House seats.
New lawmakers have been appointed as justice minister and state minister for Okinawa affairs. Three Upper House members have also joined the cabinet.
For members of the ruling coalition, regardless of whether they are mid-level or veteran lawmakers, holding a cabinet post is a way to gain prestige when running in national elections. As such, the two cabinet ministers in question should have been able to raise their status by being appointed in the cabinet reshuffle last October.
There would have been no problem if they had both retained their Upper House seats, but they lost them in the election and that was a major disgrace. Although the two ministers bear the brunt of the responsibility for their defeat, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who appointed them, cannot simply pretend he had nothing to do with it. (Abridged)