Cooperation between ruling, opposition parties must be valued

The extraordinary session of the Diet has come to a close. While scandals involving Cabinet ministers regrettably highlighted the session, it is significant that the ruling and opposition parties were able to work together at the last minute to pave the way to offer relief for people manipulated into making massive donations.

In connection with issues involving the Unification Church, formally known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, a bill prohibiting the use of illicit methods to solicit donations was passed into law in the Diet by a majority vote, with parties such as the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party) and the Democratic Party for the People joining the ruling parties of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito.

Although crafting the new law was expected to be a difficult task due to the issue of freedom of religion, it is commendable that the ruling parties and major opposition parties were able to come to a compromise and establish the law.

The new law prohibits the use of methods such as so-called spiritual sales tactics that stoke anxiety in people, putting them in a confused state in order to induce them to make donations. This law also stipulates that penalties will be imposed on entities who do not follow the government’s recommendations or orders.

Before the Cabinet decision on the bill was made, the government included at the request of opposition parties a provision for requiring due consideration, stating that organizations “shall not suppress the free will” of prospective donors when soliciting donations. It also added after consultations between the ruling and opposition parties that the name of the organizations would be made public if they failed to give due consideration.

The provision is intended to prevent followers and others from being manipulated into making donations while under a state of “mind control.”

Although the problem remains that past donations will not be redressed, it is important that there should be no new victims. The government should examine whether the new law is being properly implemented and, if necessary, be flexible in revising it.

There have only been a few cases in which the ruling and opposition camps worked together to pass critical bills into law, such as the extraordinary Diet session in 1998 during which financial rehabilitation legislation was enacted and the 2012 Diet session during which legislation for integrated reform of the social security and tax systems was enacted as a key element in the hike in the consumption tax rate.

It is important for the ruling and opposition parties to tenaciously debate various issues and reach a successful conclusion from a broad perspective.

During the latest Diet session, the revised Public Offices Election Law was enacted in an attempt to correct the disparity in voter numbers and representatives as a pillar of the redistribution of seats for the House of Representatives in single-seat constituency races, taking 10 seats from 10 prefectures and adding these 10 seats to five other prefectures.

A quarter of a century has passed since the lower house election system of a single-seat constituency race complemented with a proportional representation segment was introduced, and it has brought to light a number of issues, including the fact that there are many “wasted votes” that are not reflected in Diet seats because only one person can be elected in each constituency. Many people also question the system because unsuccessful candidates in the constituency race can secure seats through the proportional representation segment.

A special committee of the lower house adopted a supplementary resolution to set up a forum to discuss the nature of the legislature and the number of Diet seats. The ruling and opposition parties must promptly begin discussions on the reform of the election system and reach a conclusion.

High prices of goods and services are hitting households directly. There is no path for wage increases. There is also an urgent need to strengthen the nation’s defense capabilities. It is unsatisfactory that no substantive debate was held on these issues. The ruling and opposition parties must engage in constructive debate to show what this country should be like.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 11, 2022)