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Suga skips Diet debates; another extra session seen in late Oct.

  • September 18, 2020
  • , Jiji Press , 9:27 p.m.
  • English Press

Tokyo, Sept. 18 (Jiji Press)–A three-day extraordinary session of the Diet, Japan’s parliament, ended on Friday, with no policy debates under new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga taking place.


The government and the Liberal Democratic Party-led ruling bloc plan to convene in late October another extra Diet session where a policy speech by Suga, the first by him since he became prime minister on Wednesday, will be held, although the opposition camp demands an early opening to grill the government following the arrest Friday of a fraud suspect who was invited to a state-funded cherry blossom-viewing party.


The appointment of the new prime minister was the only major event during the just-ended session. There were no remarks by Suga or policy discussions. Suga succeeded Shinzo Abe, who quit as prime minister for health reasons.


At Friday’s meeting of the steering committee of the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of the Diet, Junya Ogawa, a member of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and head of the opposition bloc in the committee, called for an early Diet session to hear from the new prime minister about his government’s policies. The ruling bloc plans to reject the request.


Opposition parties repeatedly called for Diet debates attended by the prime minister under the Abe administration. They are now stepping up their demands for an early Diet session to question Suga, who has declared that he will continue Abe’s policies.


They are also looking to grill the government over the invitation of the arrested former chairman of Japan Life Co., a failed multilevel marketing company, to a cherry blossom-viewing party held under the Abe administration.


The former corporate executive used a letter of invitation to the party from Abe to attract customers. A senior CDPJ lawmaker said that the invitation had helped lead to cases of fraud.


At a press conference, however, new Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato sounded negative about reinvestigating why the former Japan Life chairman was invited to the party, saying the government has not kept the list of invitees, a comment that angered the opposition side.


“It’s the same trick as that the defunct Japanese military used on the day before the end of (World War II 75 years ago),” CDPJ Diet affairs chief Jun Azumi said at a meeting of opposition lawmakers. “They poured gasoline and burned all the documents that were inconvenient for them.”


“As the fighting opposition, we want to pursue this issue thoroughly,” he added.


But the LDP does not plan to convene the next extra Diet session before late October.


At the next session, it plans to hold Suga’s policy speech and a subsequent question-and-answer session involving both ruling and opposition lawmakers at plenary meetings of both Diet chambers, and then conduct votes on ratifying Japan’s new trade deal with Britain and a bill to revise a special measures law for moving the dates of holidays in line with the Tokyo Summer Olympics and Paralympics next year.


The next Diet session, however, may be used by the new prime minister to dissolve the all-important Lower House for a general election.


With media polls suggesting that the Suga cabinet’s approval rate is high around 60-70 pct, a senior ruling bloc official said that Suga “may be tempted to dissolve the lower chamber early.”


Some in the LDP suspect that Suga may break up the chamber after conducting only his policy speech and a Lower House question-and-answer session at the extra Diet session.


“The atmosphere in the extraordinary Diet session may be tense due to the possibility of a dissolution,” Azumi said.


The psychological battle between the ruling and opposition blocs is likely to continue.

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