Parties must renew awareness of responsibility in administering national politics

The latest extraordinary Diet session was marked by the old-style confrontation between the ruling and opposition parties. Some incidents have called into question the qualification of certain Diet members. The parties should reassess their responsibility to manage national political affairs and improve the operation of the Diet.

At the extraordinary session of the Diet, which closed on Dec. 10, the opposition parties continued to pursue scandals involving Cabinet ministers, while the government and ruling parties remained defensive. It is difficult to say that constructive debate was exchanged on issues such as high prices and the worsening national security environment.

Once again, debates between the prime minister and party leaders were not held. Such debates were last held in June 2021, meaning Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has yet to experience them. This situation has resulted from the fact that such sessions only last 45 minutes, so the opposition parties preferred to utilize the Budget Committee, where they can debate with the prime minister for a longer period of time.

It is highly significant for the leaders of each party to discuss policy from a broad perspective. In order to revitalize Diet deliberations, the ruling and opposition parties should aim to extend the time for the prime minister’s debates with party leaders and hold them on a regular basis.

There was no progress in the debate on public funds paid to Diet members.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party was reluctant to accept the opposition’s proposal to require the disclosure of the use of the ¥1 million monthly allowance for research, study, public relations, and travel (formerly known as the document, correspondence and travel allowance) and the return of any unused portion.

It is inevitable that politics incurs a certain level of cost. But it is important to improve transparency.

In September, Takeru Yoshikawa, a member of the House of Representatives who left the LDP after a weekly magazine reported that he had been drinking with an 18-year-old woman, filed with the lower house to form a “one-person parliamentary faction.”

A parliamentary faction originally is meant to be formed by a group of lawmakers to work together, but the Diet has a history of allowing one-person factions.

A parliamentary faction of the Diet receives ¥650,000 per member as a monthly stipend for legislative activities. The lower house Rules and Administration Committee has withheld a decision on Yoshikawa’s application on the grounds that forming a parliamentary group may only be for the purpose of receiving the legislative activities money. This system should be reviewed.

There is a lawmaker who continues to be absent from the Diet. If the situation is left unchecked, the authority of the Diet as the highest organ of state power will be shaken.

That lawmaker is the House of Councillors’ Yoshikazu Higashitani, an NHK Party member who goes by the name of GaaSyy. GaaSyy has been distributing online scandalous stories about celebrities and other people. He has been staying abroad since his election in July and has not attended any session of the Diet, even once.

When asked by the upper house in writing about the reason for his absence, GaaSyy replied that he fears he would be “wrongfully arrested” over his past online postings if he returned to Japan and he remains undecided when he will attend the Diet.

It is outrageous that he is not involved in any legislative activities while receiving public funds such as salaries and bonuses. He is mocking the people. If he continues to be absent from the Diet, the issue must be considered for discussion in the upper house Discipline Committee.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 25, 2022)