The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is demanding an increase in the allotted interpellation time in the Diet for the ruling parties based on the number of seats they hold. It is using the “popular will” expressed in its landslide victory in the recent House of Representatives election to justify this demand but is obviously aiming to reduce questioning on the Kake Gakuen scandal and other issues.
The opposition parties have reacted strongly to this demand, claiming it is meant to “shut out the opposition’s questioning.” However, the LDP is also showing signs of using this issue as a “bargaining chip” for agreeing to respond to interpellations at the special Diet session convening on Nov. 1. The battle between the ruling and opposition parties is heating up.
The LDP retorted at a meeting of Lower House floor groups on Oct. 30 that “the voters are asking why the LDP members do not ask questions.” It reiterated its demand to review the current allotment of 20% of question time to the ruling parties and 80% to the opposition at the Budget Committees and other sessions.
Thus far, the ruling parties controlling a majority have shown consideration for the opposition, allotting more than half of the question time to them.
According to an informed source, under the LDP administration in 2008, 40% of question time was given to the ruling parties and 60% to the opposition. Since the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) administration in 2009, the allotment was 20% for the ruling parties and 80% for the opposition, based on the demand of the LDP, which was then in opposition. This practice has continued even after the second Abe administration started.
However, the cabinet support ratings dropped sharply in light of the grilling of the Abe administration in the recent regular Diet session. Therefore, the LDP attempted to lessen the time Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had to face questioning. When the Budget Committees held off-session meetings in July, it refused to participate in the proceedings unless the ruling and opposition parties were given a 50-50 share of question time. The parties eventually settled on 30% for the ruling parties and 70% for the opposition.
A junior LDP Lower House member asked the LDP leadership to increase the party’s question time on Oct. 27, saying: “Unless I ask questions, people in my constituency will accuse me of ‘wasting taxpayer money’.”
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga stated at a news conference on Oct. 30: “From the people’s point of view, it would make sense to [allot question time] based on the number of seats.”
Since the LDP and Komeito won 313 seats in the latest Lower House election, a simple calculation would entitle them to 67% of question time, leaving only 33% for the opposition parties, giving the ruling parties a strong advantage.
However, the LDP itself benefited from the DPJ administration’s consideration when it was an opposition party, and [a reduction in the opposition’s question time] might run counter to Abe’s repeated pledge to give “thorough explanations” on the Kake Gakuen and other issues. (Slightly abridged)