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Diet session extended to pass key bills, allow Abe to score achievements for LDP presidential race

The current Diet session has been substantially extended, for 32 days, until July 22. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is eyeing reelection for a third term in the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) presidential election in September, wants to ensure the passage of the work-style reform bills and other key pieces of legislation in order to underscore his achievements.

 

Major bills the ruling parties aim to pass in the current Diet session

 

Bill and contents

Current status

Target date for passage

Work-style reform related bills

Creating wage system not based on working hours

Being deliberated at Upper House Committee on Health, Labor and Welfare

Late June

TPP-related bills

To introduce agricultural, other measures in response to TPP accord effectuation

Being deliberated at Upper House Committee on the Cabinet

Basic law on gambling addiction prevention

To strengthen support for gambling addicts and their families

Passed the Lower House

Amendments to Health Promotion Law

To ban indoor smoking at eateries in principle

Passed the Lower House

Mid-July

Amendments to Civil Code

To add new provision on spouse’s right of residence under inheritance system

IR implementing legislation

To authorize operating up to three casinos nationwide

Amendments to Public Office Election Law

To introduce “special quotas” for some Upper House proportional representation blocs

To be submitted by LDP, others to the Upper House

Amendments to Referendum Law

To apply election systems to referendums

Has not been submitted

 

At first, the Kantei and LDP members of the House of Councillors had differed on the length of the extension. Abe and his aides favored a short extension up to early July in order to prevent rekindling the Moritomo Gakuen and Kake Gakuen issues and giving the opposition more opportunity to pursue these scandals.

 

On the other hand, Secretary General Hiromi Yoshida and other LDP members of the Upper House demanded an extension up to late July to ensure the passage of amendments to the Public Office Election Law to implement electoral reforms for the Upper House.

 

The turning point in the coordination process came with the candidate supported by the ruling parties defeating the opposition candidate, who criticized the administration over the Moritomo and Kake issues, in the Niigata gubernatorial election on June 10. Opinion polls by the media outlets were also showing a rebound in the cabinet support ratings. A Kantei source revealed that Abe eventually accepted the Upper House members’ demand based on the thinking that “rather than being concerned with the risks of making mistakes, this should be regarded as an opportunity to score new achievements.”

 

According to an aide, Abe is concerned about how the public would view the measures to reform the Upper House election system proposed by the LDP, which would add six seats to the Diet chamber. However, with Yoshida, the powerful “boss” in the Upper House who belongs to the Takeshita faction, spearheading this legislation, Abe has no choice but to oblige because the Takeshita faction is undecided on whom to support in the LDP presidential race. A mid-ranking Takeshita faction member comments that “the Prime Minister’s real intent is to do the Upper House members a favor in order to win us over to his side.”

 

The extension of the Diet session is also in consideration of the interests of Komeito and Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party).

 

There is persistent resistance to the casino resort bill within Soka Gakkai, Komeito’s main support group. If the enactment of this bill is delayed to the next extraordinary Diet session in the fall, this may have an adverse effect on the simultaneous local elections next spring or the Upper House election in summer 2019. Since Komeito will have to support the bill as a ruling party, it would like to get this over with in the current Diet session to have a longer interval before the next major elections.

 

Nippon Ishin, which is aiming to invite a casino to operate in its power base of Osaka, is also aiming at the early enactment of the bill. A mid-ranking LDP member offers the opinion that “this is a meant as a gesture to solicit Ishin’s cooperation for constitutional revision.”

 

Abe dined with LDP Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai and Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso, who have declared their support for his reelection for a third term as LDP president, in Tokyo on the evening of June 20 to confirm their unity in the run-up to the presidential election. Abe plans to formally announce his candidacy at a news conference to be held after the Diet adjourns. A substantial extension of the Diet session will also serve to delay announcements by other potential candidates. (Abridged)

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