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Editorial: Japan PM Suga must convene Diet, deliver policy speech as soon as possible

Two weeks have passed since the administration of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga was launched.


Perhaps it is to show that his Cabinet is really “a Cabinet that works for the people,” as he dubbed it in the very beginning, Suga has instructed specific deliberations on individual policy measures that he indicated he would do in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)’s leadership election, such as the lowering of mobile phone rates and the establishment of a digital agency in quick succession.


Suga has also been taking part in phone call discussions with various leaders around the world, day after day. It can be said that his warming up period has ended.


But what’s been placed on the back burner amidst all of this is the Diet.


The LDP has told the opposition parties that the extraordinary session of the Diet, in which the prime minister will deliver his policy speech, will be convened on Oct. 20 at the earliest. That is way too late.


Is the Suga administration staying the course of the previous administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in slighting the Diet, too?


In a policy speech, the prime minister reveals his basic principles in how he will proceed with domestic affairs and foreign diplomacy. That Suga is not making his speech right away can only be seen as proof that he sees little need for explanation to the public.


Then prime ministers Yasuo Fukuda and Taro Aso delivered their policy speeches and answered questions from leaders of other parties five days after launching their Cabinets. It is the prime minister’s duty to give their speeches as early as possible.


It is likely that Suga’s insistence on quickly realizing the individual policies that he has already laid out is aimed at setting himself apart from Abe, who spoke about vague goals but did not have specific plans for achieving them. It is believed that many members of the public are counting on the policies that Suga has put forth.


However, what sort of society are these specific policies meant to create? A general picture has yet to emerge.


Suga has said that he aspires for a society of “self-help, mutual support, public aid, and bonding,” emphasizing that we must first help ourselves. The opposition has criticized this as “a neoliberal stance that places importance on self-accountability.”


How will Suga respond to this criticism? Debate in the Diet will be crucial.


The country’s response to the novel coronavirus pandemic has been completely left to the discretion of the government. Both ruling and opposition parties should promptly hold discussions about it in the Diet.


Favoritism scandals including the heavily discounted sale of state-owned property to nationalist school operator Moritomo Gakuen, which had ties to then Prime Minister Abe’s wife Akie, and the establishment of a veterinary school in the Ehime Prefecture city of Imabari by Kake Educational Institution headed by Abe’s close friend, as well as suspicions surrounding an annual cherry blossom-viewing party hosted by Abe, have not been resolved. It is only appropriate that the unfavorable legacies of the previous administration be investigated and reviewed in the Diet.


Meanwhile, the opposition parties have also been hesitant. Fear of a possible dissolution of the House of Representatives for a snap general election before the end of the year — which is fervently desired by many within the LDP — appears to be the only reason behind the opposition’s reluctance to strongly demand that the extraordinary Diet session be held soon. In order to straighten out the Diet, the opposition must also show resolve.

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