Dealing with the Japan Innovation Party (Nippon Ishin) is giving the ruling parties a headache. The Nippon Ishin’s policy objectives are more closely aligned with those of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and Komeito than other opposition parties’, especially on matters concerning the management of the Diet affairs. However, the possibility of cooperation with Nippon Ishin is making it difficult for the ruling parties to firmly reject its proposals for Diet reform. Moreover, both the LDP and Komeito have strong reasons to avoid confrontation with Nippon Ishin.
“The twisted logic of the government is hindering Diet reform,” said Nippon Ishin leader Baba Nobuyuki during an Upper House interpellation session for party heads on Dec. 9. “The factions that reject reform initiatives are like termites swarming to the hard-earned tax money of the Japanese people,” Baba said as the Diet discussed reviewing the allowances distributed to legislators for outgoing mail, communication, transportation, and accommodation expenses.
The ruling and opposition parties agree on introducing a pro-rata payment process for the allowances but are reluctant to go along with Nippon Ishin’s proposal requiring legislators to disclose details of the spending by submitting receipts. Prime Minister Kishida Fumio, who also heads the LDP, replied by simply saying: “We should continue to discuss the issue so we can reach an agreement among legislators.”
On the issue of constitutional reform, Baba called on the premier to demonstrate “strong will to lead discussions on constitutional reform.” Kishida replied, “I am determined to devote all my efforts to the issue.” Kishida showed consideration for Baba’s announcement of Nippon Ishin’s “plan for a thorough reform of Japan” by saying, “Your party’s proposal will be taken into account in conducting serious discussions.”
Nippon Ishin significantly increased its Diet seats in the last Lower House election and has since proposed a series of counterproposals to the government and the ruling coalition. The loss of seats by the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ), which had taken a confrontational stance toward the administration, has caused Nippon Ishin to step up its approach of dealing with policies individually.
At times, Nippon Ishin has supported bills submitted by the ruling parties and opposed by the opposition camp. A senior LDP member confessed, “It’s more difficult to deal with Nippon Ishin than to deal with other opposition parties that oppose everything.” Unlike the CDPJ and others, Nippon Ishin’s support base overlaps with the LDP’s, and a misstep in dealing with the party could cause the LDP to lose votes in the Upper House election scheduled for next summer.
Furthermore, the LDP hopes to secure cooperation from the pro-reform Nippon Ishin ahead of launching efforts to achieve constitutional reform next year. Komeito, on its part, benefited from Nippon Ishin’s decision to not field Lower House candidates in six electoral districts in Osaka and Hyogo Prefectures.
Meanwhile, a schism has emerged between the LDP and Komeito over such issues as constitutional reform and security policies, and some in Komeito are wary of the shrinking distance between the LDP and Nippon Ishin. Within the LDP, there are voices of concern about giving too much consideration to Nippon Ishin, according to an ex-cabinet member of the LDP.
DPFP joins senior constitutional commission meeting for first time
On Dec. 9, Tamaki Yuichiro, the leader of the Democratic Party for the People (DPFP), attended a meeting of the Commission on the Constitution of the Lower House held by the commission’s directors from the ruling parties. Only the LDP, Komeito, and Nippon Ishin had attended the commission’s meetings in the past.
“The DPFP will take a different approach from those who simply object to holding commission meetings and discussing the issue,” said Tamaki at a press briefing after the meeting. The LDP’s Shindo Yoshitaka, who serves as the chief director of the commission, said to the press, “More joined our cause,” welcoming the participation by the DPFP.
The commission meeting on Dec. 9 was held during the extraordinary Diet session, and the directors were selected from both ruling and opposition parties. During a preliminary meeting between both the ruling and opposition camps, the ruling coalition requested another session for the following week for free discussion, but the opposition camp declined, citing the need to discuss the matter within each party.