Insufficient debate held in Diet on overcoming pandemic difficulties

Although vaccinations have brought a ray of light, it can hardly be said that the nation has overcome the difficulties. The ruling and opposition parties should seriously address the public’s dissatisfaction with politics.

The ordinary Diet session has closed. Nearly the entire duration of this session overlapped with two states of emergency, and measures to control the novel coronavirus pandemic became a major point of contention.

The government and ruling parties revised the special measures law to cope with new strains of influenza with the aim of strengthening measures against the coronavirus, and approved a budget for fiscal 2021 that exceeded ¥106 trillion. They can be praised for striving to secure hospital beds and making preparations to expand support for businesses.

However, the central and local governments handled the declaration of states of emergency and measures against the pandemic in a haphazard and makeshift manner, and discussions were not deepened between the ruling and opposition parties on restrictions on personal rights and support measures. In addition, due consideration has not been given to reviewing the system of long-term medical care and swiftly approving new vaccines.

A no-confidence motion against the Cabinet of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, which was submitted by four opposition parties including the largest opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, was rejected. It was reported that CDPJ leader Yukio Edano was reluctant to submit the no-confidence motion, but he changed his mind after the other opposition parties urged him to do so.

For the opposition parties to get off track over their no-confidence motion calling for the administration to resign en masse, or to dissolve the House of Representatives, shows a lack of a sense of urgency. It seems that the public is fed up with political grandstanding during the coronavirus crisis.

On the other hand, Suga’s answers were inarticulate and unconvincing. Regarding the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, the prime minister only repeatedly said that he would like to “realize a safe and secure Games,” never making clear any concrete measures to guarantee safety.

It is an important role for leaders to speak frankly to the people and gain their understanding. The prime minister needs to keep this in mind and make thorough explanations for that purpose.

The ruling and opposition parties should make active use of deliberations to be held while the Diet is out of session to delve into measures to prevent the spread of the virus during the Olympics and foreign policy and security issues.

During the Diet session, cooperation between the ruling and opposition parties has produced some positive results.

A new law to oust teachers who commit indecent acts against students was enacted in a short period of time because the ruling parties began to discuss it after the government abandoned the legislation, gaining support from opposition parties. They can be said to have taken advantage of lawmaker-initiated legislation that can flexibly respond to circumstances.

Diet members have resigned amid a series of irregularities, including former Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai and his wife, who were involved in a large-scale vote-buying scandal. Regarding the violation of foreign capital regulations by broadcasting-related company Tohokushinsha Film Corp., the core problem that distorted regulatory administration has been left unresolved.

By failing to sincerely respond to the public’s questions and continuing to take actions while lacking discipline, public distrust in politics will grow even stronger. The government and ruling parties must make efforts to manage the administration with greater transparency.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on June 17, 2021.