The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and Komeito have now agreed to summon former National Tax Agency Commissioner Nobuhisa Sagawa to testify in the Diet in response to strong demands from the opposition.
LDP Diet Affairs Committee Chair Hiroshi Moriyama told reporters on March 14: “If the necessity arises in the course of deliberations, we would like to discuss this (between the ruling and opposition parties). We are not refusing,” in an attempt to convey a flexible attitude on the issue of summoning Sagawa. Until the previous day, he had resisted this demand, claiming, “According to the rules, questions should be addressed to the incumbent head of the Financial Bureau.”
The ruling parties had calculated that the opposition parties would return to the intensive session of the House of Councillors Budget Committee on March 14. A senior LDP official reckoned that this was because “attacking Prime Minister Shinzo Abe directly would be a good way for the opposition to steal the limelight.” These parties had also received information that some Democratic Party members were clamoring to return to Diet deliberations.
However, the ruling parties had misread the situation. Not only the hardline Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ), but also the Japanese Communist Party, which was not keen on boycotting Diet proceedings, stood firm. When the opposition served notice on the evening of March 13 that they would not attend the Budget Committee meeting, the ruling bloc had no choice but to compromise.
The ruling parties were also forced to change tack because in addition to the public’s calls to summon Sagawa to the Diet, failure to pass the bills related to tax reforms and a number of other bills could affect the people’s livelihoods.
A senior LDP member lamented, “The government and the ruling parties also felt guilty about the confusion in the Diet, so they could no longer persist with their aggressive tactics.”
It is now probable that Sagawa will be summoned to the Diet. Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai was the one who defied the lingering reservations in the party. He conveyed to CPDJ Secretary General Tetsuro Fukuyama the LDP’s consent.
Nikai also gave consideration to the opposition parties in the battle over the passage of the FY18 budget. With the Kantei under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seriously hurt by the Moritomo Gakuen scandal, it is possible that the party’s political leadership will grow stronger. (Slightly abridged)