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HOME  > Past issues  > 2007 April 4 - 10  > Diet without PM debates with party heads reflects dilemma for LDP and DPJ
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2007 April 4 - 10 [POLITICS]

Diet without PM debates with party heads reflects dilemma for LDP and DPJ

April 4, 2007
Half of the current Diet session is over. Yet, no single question time has been held in which the prime minister and opposition party leaders have debates on basic policy questions. This reflects the situation in which both the Liberal Democratic Party and the Democratic Party of Japan are preoccupied with their own problems.

LDP General Council Chair Niwa Yuya at a meeting of his faction members of the House of Representatives on April 2 said, “I wonder why the DPJ dislikes the question time, which they proposed to hold. Prime Minister Abe Shinzo is always ready to take on any DPJ challenge.” He blamed DPJ leader Ozawa Ichiro for failing to request the prime minister to hold the debate.

On the other hand, DPJ Secretary General Hatoyama Yukio stated at the March 30 press conference, “I am saying to President Ozawa that the debate will be the best opportunity for us to show the public the difference in caliber between him and Prime Minister Abe. I wish him to confront the prime minister.”

Prime Minister Abe has been criticized for the lack of accountability of his cabinet members’ offensive remarks and their alleged misuse of political funds as well as for his controversial remarks regarding the wartime sex slavery issue. Meanwhile, DPJ President Ozawa has been criticized for failing to provide a satisfactory explanation for reporting on his use of political funds of more than 500 million yen to buy real estate. An official familiar with Diet affairs said, “Both sides have problems and they want to avoid criticism. That is why they are unwilling to hold debates.”

Debates by prime ministers with opposition party leaders have taken place since 1999. Since the 2004 House of Councilors election, the Japanese Communist Party has been stripped of the right to take part in such debates due to a regulation that allows only a party with more than ten members in either House to participate. The JCP is demanding that the opportunity to debate be provided to small parties too.

Apart from this, the current Diet session is still regarded as sloppy in that no such debate has been held up to the halfway point of the present 150-day session.

This is because the LDP and DPJ are both conservative forces standing on the same ground regarding their political course and basic policies.

In the recent gubernatorial election campaign, a considerable stir was caused by an event in which DPJ-supported governors Matsuzawa Shigefumi of Kanagawa Prefecture, who himself was the incumbent candidate, and Ueda Kiyoshi of Saitama Prefecture made an appearance in support of LDP-backed candidate Ishihara Shintaro of Tokyo.

On April 1, LDP House of Councilors Diet Affairs Committee Vice Chair Hosaka Sanzo said, “Both Mr. Matsuzawa and Mr. Ueda used to be DPJ House of Representatives members. Once they became governors, they have come to join the ‘Team Ishihara’ and reinforcing his popularity. To be honest, I was surprised, but this is the reality.”

In the background of the avoidance of the question time is the “fusion” of politicians and their policies promoted underneath the LDP and DPJ.

Niwa said, “In the simultaneous local elections, it is important for both the LDP and the DPJ to show differences in their policies before the voters through debates between their leaders.”

Nonetheless, the current Diet session reflects their dilemma of an inability to show their differences.
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