Tokyo, Jan. 17 (Jiji Press)–The Japanese government and ruling coalition plan to do all they can to ensure the early enactment of the fiscal 2021 draft budget and a revision to the special measures law on the fight against the novel coronavirus during the ordinary session of the Diet, Japan’s parliament, to be convened on Monday.
During the ordinary session, which will run through June, they also hope to win the approval of legislation related to digital reform, a key policy measure of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, in order to highlight an early achievement of the Suga government.
With an election for the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of the Diet, due by October, however, opposition parties are determined to grill the government over its responses to the coronavirus epidemic, suggesting a tough parliamentary road ahead for the ruling camp.
For Suga, who took office in September last year, the coming session will be the second full-scale parliamentary debate opportunity, after the extraordinary session last year.
He will deliver a policy speech in plenary meetings of both Diet chambers on Monday, followed by question-and-answer sessions from Wednesday to Friday.
The ruling coalition gives top priority to winning the enactment of the fiscal 2020 draft third supplementary budget and the coronavirus special measures law revision. After two days of debate in each chamber, the ruling bloc hopes to see the extra budget enacted on Jan. 28 and the special law revision on Feb. 3.
But the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and others are calling for modifications to the extra budget bill in response to the government’s declaration of a coronavirus state of emergency covering 11 prefectures. They also remain cautious about the government’s proposal that the special measures law should stipulate penalties against refusals of authorities’ business suspension and other requests.
After revising the special measures law, the ruling camp hopes to start discussions on the fiscal 2021 draft budget for enactment before the start of the new fiscal year.
But the CDP and other opposition forces are ready to question the government over what they see as behind-the-curve responses by the government to the coronavirus epidemic.
They are also demanding government explanations on a political funds scandal involving former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the indictment without arrest of former agriculture minister Takamori Yoshikawa over a bribery scandal.
In April and beyond, the ruling coalition will focus its efforts on achieving the enactment of legislation related to digital reform, featuring the establishment of a digital agency.
Other key legislative challenges include a medical system reform bill aimed at increasing out-of-pocket fees for people aged 75 or older and an amendment to the national referendum law.
The ordinary Diet session will continue for 150 days until June 16. It is widely believed to be difficult to extend the session for a long period, due to an election for the Tokyo metropolitan assembly, where members’ current term ends on July 22, and the July 23 opening of the postponed Tokyo Olympic Games.
With the term of Lower House members set to expire on Oct. 21, close attention is being paid to when Suga will dissolve the powerful chamber for a snap election.
Speculation within the ruling camp has it that he may call a Lower House election in time with by-elections for the Lower House and the House of Councillors, the upper chamber, on April 25, or the Tokyo metropolitan assembly poll.
Some believe that Suga is unlikely to disband the Lower House before the Sept. 5 end of the Tokyo Paralympics unless the coronavirus situation improves.