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Editorial: Japan PM Abe should call extra Diet session immediately amid virus resurgence

  • August 3, 2020
  • , The Mainichi
  • English Press

Japan’s four major opposition parties on July 31 submitted a written request to House of Representatives Speaker Tadamori Oshima for an early convocation of an extraordinary Diet session to discuss the resurgence of the novel coronavirus and a response to the torrential rain disaster in southwestern Japan.


However, the ruling coalition, as usual, refused the request, leaving us wondering if the government is feeling insecure about calling a Diet session. How long are Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the ruling parties going to shy away from Diet deliberations?


What bothers us the most is that Prime Minister Abe, who previously vowed to spearhead the government’s response to the coronavirus crisis, has barely made a public appearance lately.


While out-of-session meetings have been held in both chambers of the Diet after the regular session ended in June, Abe has shown up to none of them. One is tempted to suspect that the ruling parties are refusing to convene an extra Diet session primarily because they want to avoid seeing Abe being grilled by the opposition camp.


However, now is not the time for parties to be engaged in such political maneuvering.


Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga had initially shrugged off the resurgence of the coronavirus by describing it as a “Tokyo problem.” However, the viral resurgence subsequently spread to Osaka and Aichi prefectures in western and central Japan, respectively, before hitting all over the country.


Nevertheless, the government has shown no intention of suspending the controversial domestic travel promotion campaign to support the pandemic-battered tourism industry. Meanwhile, the same government has once again urged companies to promote remote working to prevent the further spread of the novel virus strain, exhibiting an inconsistency in its policies.


Even though out-of-session Diet meetings are being held, such an arrangement has its own limits when it comes to debating a revision to the special measures law over the novel coronavirus. It would be preposterous for the government to defer discussion on the matter while refusing to hold an extra session in the legislature.


The latest call by the opposition bloc to convene an extraordinary Diet session was made based on Article 53 of the Japanese Constitution, which stipulates: “The Cabinet may determine to convoke extraordinary sessions of the Diet. When a quarter or more of the total members of either House makes the demand, the Cabinet must determine on such convocation.”


Up until now, the Abe administration has not once responded immediately to such requests under the pretext that the supreme law does not specifically mention the timing for convening an extraordinary Diet session under such circumstances.


Yet in this time of emergency, it is only natural for the Diet to hold an extra session, without even turning to the constitutional provision. Nonetheless, the ruling camp has not complied with the opposition’s request, which can be said to represent the current administration’s aberrant nature.


Haruo Ozaki, chairman of the Tokyo Medical Association, recently expressed a profound sense of crisis, saying, “The novel coronavirus has no summer vacation.” Prime Minister Abe and all Diet members should humbly accept his warning.


It is hoped that an extraordinary Diet session is used as an opportunity to establish a system for both the ruling and opposition parties to cope with the current crisis.

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