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Editorial: Japan’s Diet flops on key issues as gov’t, opposition turn to internal fighting

There is a fierce internal fight going on in Japan over the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)’s positions. At the same time, we see a noticeable amount of bickering among the opposition parties. Meanwhile, parliamentary debate on key issues has become increasingly flat.

 

The regular Diet session ended on June 15, and for the first time in 26 years, every bill submitted by the government was enacted. However, this was only because the governing parties did not introduce legislation that might enflame opposition parties ahead of this July’s House of Councillors election, thus simply kicking important issues down the road.

 

Furthermore, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s Diet comments were bereft of energy and enthusiasm. When asked about the specifics of his signature “new capitalism” policy, Kishida simply repeated that he would “upgrade capitalism.” The opposition parties sarcastically labeled the policy an exercise in endless “consideration” over action, and an essentially pointless one at that.

 

In contrast to the PM, who proved so unable to assert himself, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe showed off his ability to communicate outside the Diet. He advocated “nuclear sharing,” in which nuclear weapons would be jointly operated by Japan and the United States, and called for a large increase in the defense budget plus aggressive government spending. He also pushed for constitutional reform.

 

Should Japan expand its budget or seek to staunch the red ink? Should it be a dove, or a hawk willing to use military force? These are issues that affect the very foundations of the nation, and the LDP’s intraparty fight over them attracted more public attention than the debates going on in the Diet.

 

Regarding Abe, even years later, he has still failed to give an answer to the Diet about a party hosted by his political support organization on the eve of a publicly funded cherry blossom viewing event, despite the recent emergence of new allegations of impropriety. And though he is no longer prime minister, he still exerts strong influence on the government and the LDP by leveraging the power of the party’s largest faction, which he controls. If this bipolar power structure — Kishida versus Abe — persists within the LDP, the current prime minister’s presence will only diminish further.

 

Meanwhile, the opposition parties have proven sluggish, failing to present a united front against the ruling administration in the Diet. This was exemplified by the Democratic Party for the People (DPFP) voting in favor of the budget draft for the new fiscal year, despite being an opposition party. The DPFP appears to have arranged this in advance, under the guise of “policy consultations.” This makes a mockery of Diet deliberations.

 

Then there was the sight of the Japan Innovation Party (Nippon Ishin) slamming fellow opposition force the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP) during Diet discussions. And despite criticizing the PM for falling short of true reform, Nippon Ishin joined the DPFP in voting against a no-confidence motion against the Kishida Cabinet put by the CDP.

 

At the same time, the CDP was torn between making new policy proposals and pursuing confrontations with the government, failing to fulfill its responsibilities as the largest opposition party.

 

Prime Minister Kishida relentlessly dodged important issues, and the opposition was unable to unite to face up to his government. In the upper house election, political parties should pursue vigorous debate to present voters with true alternatives.

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