With regard to making a legal framework for the Emperor’s abdication, three opposition parties, the Democratic Party, the Japanese Communist Party and Social Democratic Party, seem to be in line with “making a permanent system by revising the Imperial Household Act.” On Jan. 19, discussions among the speakers and the vice speakers of both Houses and all parliamentarian groups began. There remains a wide gap between the opposition parties and the government, which considers making a one-generation specific special law on the abdication. Opposition parties’ senior officials say, “We will not make the issue of abdication a tool for political maneuvering.” However, it is rumored that there might be a snap election within the year. In order to make a play up confrontation between the ruling and opposition parties, the latter may use the abdication issue.
“I welcome united opposition parties because we can wage joint struggles in the Diet sessions,” SDP chief Tadatomo Yoshida said on Jan. 19 at a press conference prior to discussions with the House speakers. He said this as if to imply that having common ground for the abdication issue could strengthen the unity among opposition parties.
However, it seems that the opposition parties have not made prior arrangements for unity regarding the abdication issue.
DP Secretary General Yoshihiko Noda told the press after talks with the House speakers, “The abdication issue is not a subject to be used for the united opposition front or for cooperation among the opposition.” JCP Head of Secretariat Akira Koike said, “Common ground [for the abdication issue] seems to have arisen naturally, and it is different from election cooperation or policy discussions among opposition parties.”
However, there is a good possibility that the abdication issue will develop into a tool for political maneuvering. In reference to the government’s plan to submit a bill for revising the Organized Crime Punishment Law so as to newly establish the “crime of terrorism preparation” by significantly changing structural elements of conspiracy, Yoshida said at a press conference, “If the government wants to deliberate on the abdication issue in a quiet environment, why does it submit such a controversial bill [for incorporating the crime of conspiracy] that could divide public opinion?
If the SDP regards the bill as problematic, it should squarely debate the matter at the Diet. Yoshida’s remark is as if to take advantage of the abdication issue to their interests. If this not a “tool for political maneuvering,” what else could it be?
It is also questionable that the DP put together “points of contention” regarding the abdication issue one month earlier than the scheduled announcement (Jan. 23) of the conclusion of the government’s expert panel. This is unprecedentedly quick for a party well-known for its indecisiveness and postponement of issues. It seems that the DP, which anticipated that the government will favor the one-generation specific special law, apparently intended to confront the government by its counterargument of establishing a permanent system.
“I doubt whether four opposition parties, the DP, the JCP, the SDP and Liberal Party, really understand the meaning of “deliberation [on the abdication issue] in a quiet environment,” said Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party) Secretary General Nobuyuki Baba at a press conference on Jan. 19.
Baba warned as follows: “The four opposition parties have agreed to cooperate with each other as much as they can in next election of the House of Representatives. However, they still significantly differ on the nation’s fundamental policies including the restart of suspended nuclear plants. As we approach the next Lower House election, there is no denying that those four opposition parties could use the abdication issue as a political tool for their joint struggle.” (Abridged)