Vitalize Diet with substantive debates between political party leaders

It is important to constructively discuss concrete measures that will lead to the improvement of people’s lives and national interests in the face of a mountain of domestic and foreign issues.

In response to the recent policy speech by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, question-and-answer sessions attended by representatives from both the ruling and opposition parties have started at the Diet. This is the first full-fledged Diet debate for the Kishida administration.

Kenta Izumi, the leader of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition party, said, “[Our party] will work to solve issues with respect for freedom and diversity.”

Izumi promoted the party’s own concrete policies in the Diet debate, focusing on the economy and border control measures against the novel coronavirus, possibly because the CDPJ aims to change its image as a political party that is fixated on criticism to one that will map out and propose policies.

Izumi also emphasized that he would aim for a “people-friendly sustainable capitalism.” He said the party would secure financial resources through such measures as strengthening the progressivity of the income tax and increasing the redistribution of wealth to households with children and to young people.

The prime minister, who is also the president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, said, “I want to take every measure available to bring about a return of a robust middle class.” The specifics of his vision of a “new form of capitalism” are still unclear. It is hoped that the discussion will be further deepened on what the tax system and wealth redistribution methods should be like to achieve the vision at budget committees’ meetings and on other occasions.

Izumi called for a review of the benefits worth ¥100,000 for those aged 18 or younger, saying that the entire amount should be paid in cash instead of a combination of cash and coupons, which would incur higher administrative costs.

The prime minister indicated that the government would consider making it possible to provide full-cash benefits, depending on the actual circumstances of local governments. Costs must be kept to a minimum.

Although Izumi made detailed proposals on specific topics, it is disappointing that he did not mention important issues such as his views on the Japan-U.S. alliance and how to face China. He needs to consolidate his party’s opinions on foreign affairs, security and the Constitution and appeal to the public for support.

Pointing out that the security environment around Japan is deteriorating, LDP Secretary General Toshimitsu Motegi stated that defense spending should be expanded without sticking to the existing framework. He also argued that the possession of the capability to attack enemy bases to respond to missile attacks is a “viable option.”

Diet reform is also an important point of contention.

Regarding the ¥1 million monthly allowance that is granted to each Diet member to cover correspondence, transport, lodging and other costs — of which the full amount is paid even if lawmakers are in office only one day a month — Izumi has called for a legal revision to make it an allowance paid at a daily rate and mandatory to disclose the use of the funds.

The ruling parties intend to prioritize the revision to make the allowance a benefit that is paid based on a daily rate. Ruling and opposition parties must actively search for common ground to revise the law as soon as possible.

Recently, opposition parties have focused on pursuing the government and ruling parties over scandals, while cabinet members have conspicuously failed to answer questions head-on.

It is hoped that reforms that meet the expectations of the people will be promoted, through such measures as vitalizing the Diet through regular debates among party leaders.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Dec. 9, 2021.