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HOME  > Past issues  > 2007 September 19 - 25  > Prime minister’s office dysfunctional since Abe hospitalized
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2007 September 19 - 25 [POLITICS]

Prime minister’s office dysfunctional since Abe hospitalized

September 19, 2007
A week has passed since Prime Minister Abe Shinzo abandoned his government just before a round of representative interpellations in the extraoridinary session of the Diet was about to start. Abe was hospitalized due to functional gastrointestinal disorder shortly after the announcement of his resignation. Because of his absence, the prime minister’s office has become dysfunctional, and conferences that the prime minister convened were either cancelled or put off.

No cabinet meeting

The prime minister was initially expected to stay in the hospital for three to four days and attend a cabinet meeting on September 18. The cabinet meeting was held as an informal meeting due to Abe’s absence.

Although Prime Minister Abe was reportedly too ill to watch TV or read newspapers, he was giving approval in the hospital to matters to be dealt with by the cabinet.

The Cabinet Law provides that in case the prime minister cannot discharge his duties, the state minister designated by him shall perform the function. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yosano Kaoru, however, said this rule does not apply to the present situation.

The Cabinet Office planned to hold on September 30 a public meeting in which cabinet ministers will answer questions from citizens, but it decided to cancel the event. “We will reschedule the meeting after a new cabinet is formed and invite participants again. It will be in late October at the earliest,” said an official in charge of organizing the meeting.

Education Rebuilding Council

The Education Rebuilding Council that was formed on Abe’s strong initiative has also been adversely affected.

On the very day on which the council was to meet for the first time after the House of Councilors election, Abe announced his resignation. The council had planned to prioritize the items on the agenda in preparation for its third report to be compiled within this year, but the meeting was cancelled.

“The council cannot meet for a month. The council itself hangs on the next cabinet,” said the council’s office.

Since the Abe cabinet was formed a year ago, it has forcibly carried out an adverse revision of the Fundamental Law of Education and introduced a system of renewing teaching licenses and a national academic achievement test in line with the council’s two reports.

The Central Council of Education, an advisory panel to the education minister, is discussing the implementation of the council’s proposals, including an increase in school hours and upgrading moral education to a regular subject.

The Education Rebuilding Council is also giving shape to educational policies which have been under consideration since before the Abe cabinet was formed, including the introduction of a “school voucher” system, mergers and closings of schools, and review of the 6-3-3 school system. Therefore, future moves of the council need to be carefully monitored by the public.

Discussion on collective self-defense

Abe’s advisory panel to study how Japan can legitimately exercise the right of collective self-defense also cancelled its meeting scheduled for September 14.

The aim of this panel was to pave the way for constitutional revision by allowing Japan to exercise the right of collective self-defense which the Constitution prohibits and to enable the prime minister to change constitutional interpretations.

The ruling parties’ devastating defeat made it difficult for the government to change the present constitutional interpretation. Nevertheless, the panel planned to continue its work to compile its report.

Abe’s abrupt resignation, however, put the panel’s work on hold. Whether the panel continues will be decided by the next prime minister.

The establishment of a Japanese version of the U.S. National Security Council pushed by the Abe cabinet is also on hold. The government submitted a bill to establish the NSC to the ordinary session of the Diet in April, but the Diet has not discussed it yet. Although the bill was taken over to the extraordinary Diet session, at this time there is no chance for it to be discussed during the session.

The post of the prime minister’s special adviser in charge of security, which Koike Yuriko took up for the first time, was abolished after Koike left to become defense minister.
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