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Editorial: Diet should be venue for political parties to vie over their policies

  • May 23, 2019
  • , The Japan News , 7:46 p.m.
  • English Press

It is important to reform rigid Diet management and prepare an environment for the constructive debate of issues in Japan and abroad. Both ruling and opposition parties must abandon maneuvers for party interests and bring about reform.

 

Concerning the written questions through which a lawmaker asks questions about government positions and the written replies from the government, the House of Representatives’ Committee on Rules and Administration has decided on a policy to stop delivering the documents to all Diet members, instead making them available on the internet. Based on the agreement, the ¥50 million cost of printing the documents could be saved yearly.

 

The move is intended to ease the burden on Diet employees of delivering the documents, as well as cut down on relevant costs. The minutes of committee meetings would be worthy of consideration for such a step.

 

As to personnel affairs that require Diet approval, the lower house committee has also agreed that policy speeches by candidates and questions will be open to the public, in principle, if the candidates agree. This is aimed at enhancing transparency. Why not promote paperless operations and proceed with the reform of personnel matters that require Diet approval, with the close cooperation of both houses of the Diet?

 

The fact that ruling and opposition parties compromised and agreed to a certain degree represents a step forward, but it does not go beyond an administrative review.

 

Soon it will be 20 years since the enactment of the Diet deliberations vitalization law that stipulates the introduction of the debates between party leaders and the use of answers by vice ministers, among other things. It is indispensable to realize the original purpose of creating a policy-oriented Diet by increasing debate between politicians.

 

The vitalization of party leaders’ debates should be given priority. It is important for party leaders to exchange their views with a sense of tension on foreign and security policies, and mid- and long-term economic management.

 

Don’t miss opportunity

 

It is a problem that the agreement among ruling and opposition parties in 2014 to hold a party leaders’ debate “once a month” has become a mere facade. Opposition parties seem to attach importance to questions at the Budget Committee meetings, in which opposition lawmakers can easily engage the prime minister for a long time and question the prime minister one-sidedly.

 

Debates among party leaders were introduced in 2000, modeled after Britain with its two-party system. It is indispensable to flexibly review the rule in consideration of the current situation, in which there are many opposition parties.

 

One possibility is to extend the current total 45-minute time frame for the debate or decide beforehand the policy themes to be debated among ruling and opposition parties. Party leaders should stop their approach of endlessly presenting their own arguments.

 

Japanese prime ministers and Cabinet members are said to attend more days of parliamentary sessions than their counterparts in other countries. Ruling and opposition parties should show consideration for the management of committees so as not to cause a problem in policy implementation. It is also necessary to make active use of vice ministers and parliamentary secretaries.

 

As lawmakers give prior notice to the government about their questions at the last minute, bureaucrats are forced to prepare answers until midnight. Such outdated practices should be reviewed.

 

A suprapartisan lawmakers’ league for Diet reform was formed and has made various proposals. It is important to steadily produce results without losing this momentum.

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