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Rookie ministers source of concern for Abe at extra Diet session

  • September 23, 2019
  • , Jiji Press , 8:39 p.m.
  • English Press

Tokyo, Sept. 23 (Jiji Press)–Some of the 13 rookie ministers in Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s new cabinet are a source of concern for the administration at an upcoming extraordinary session of the Diet, the country’s parliament, political watchers said.

The 13 people landed their first ministerial posts in the cabinet reshuffle carried out by the prime minister on Sept. 11. Some of them could be opposition parties’ targets of assault in Diet debates at the extraordinary session kicking off on Oct. 4, with doubts being cast on their abilities to handle things properly following questionable or inadequate remarks they made in the past.

The ruling side, led by Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, therefore plans to limit the number of government-sponsored bills to be submitted to the Diet session to about 15, informed sources said. The number could possibly be reduced further, according to the sources.

The lowest number of bills presented to a major extraordinary Diet session since Abe launched his current administration in late 2012 was 13, at last year’s extra session, which was held for 48 days from late October to early December.

The forthcoming Diet session will be the first since the cabinet shake-up and also be the first for full-fledged debates between the ruling and opposition camps since the election for the House of Councillors, the upper chamber of the Diet, on July 21 this year. The duration of the session will likely be set at about two months until early December.

Of the expected government-sponsored bills, the outlook is murky for a national strategic special zone law amendment for creating “super cities,” where artificial intelligence and other state-of-the-art technologies will be fully utilized.

The government submitted a bill to revise the law to this year’s regular Diet session, which ended in June. But it was scrapped due to insufficient coordination with the ruling bloc of the LDP and its Komeito ally.

A government official showed concern that regional revitalization minister Seigo Kitamura, one of the 13 rookie ministers, who is in charge of the legislation, “may be unable to sufficiently respond” to questions from the opposition camp. The new minister failed to properly answer questions from reporters at his inaugural press conference on Sept. 11.

The opposition side may grill new education minister Koichi Hagiuda, one of the closest aides to Abe, over a favoritism scandal related to school operator Kake Educational Institution, which is headed by a friend of the prime minister. Hagiuda is responsible for a planned government bill to revise the special law on salaries of teachers to allow them to take leave in line with the ways they work.

Other government bills will include one to seek ratification of a proposed trade pact between Japan and the United States, which is expected to be signed by Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump at their meeting in New York on Wednesday.

Besides the bills from the government, ruling and opposition lawmakers are expected to submit a joint bill to amend the law on damages payments to former leprosy patients subjected to the government’s quarantine policy so that their relatives can receive compensation as well.

Potentially contentious issues at the coming Diet session will include social security reforms.

Meanwhile, the Diet schedule is bound to be tight partly because of Abe’s planned overseas trips.

The prime minister is set to travel to Thailand to attend a series of summit meetings related to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations from late October and to Chile to take part in a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in mid-November.

In addition, events related to Japanese Emperor Naruhito, who ascended the Imperial throne on May 1, are slated for late October, including “Sokuirei-Seiden-no-Gi,” a ceremony for the new Emperor to proclaim his enthronement at home and abroad.

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