The Duties of Diet Members Must Be Taken Seriously

A member of the Diet has continually missed sessions, and the leader of a political party has said a vacant Diet seat will be filled in rotation by its members, who will switch every year until the current term ends. The ruling and opposition parties should take seriously the fact that the highest organ of state power is being undermined.

Opposition party Reiwa Shinsengumi announced that five people who were on the party’s proportional representation candidate list for the House of Councillors election last year will take turns filling the vacant seat of an upper house member from the party who resigned due to poor health. In the order of votes they received in the election, one of the five will take over the seat, and will stand down after one year, with the next person assuming the spot.

Party leader Taro Yamamoto said, “We aim to respond to the public’s mandate with a diverse and varied membership.”

Neither the Constitution nor the Diet Law assumes such a situation. The term of upper house members is six years, which is longer than that of House of Representative lawmakers, and there is no dissolution of the upper house. He apparently aims to attract attention by taking advantage of the nature of the upper house.

However, if the rotating system is adopted, it will be difficult for the upper house members to enhance their knowledge. The lawmakers also will not build up experience.

In the 1980s, Germany’s Green party once divided a four-year term into two-year rotations, but the system did not work and was soon abolished.

Unless there are unavoidable circumstances, such as illness, it is the duty of Diet members to serve out their full term. It must be said that replacing a Diet member at the discretion of a party leader is akin to treating the Diet seat like private property.

New rules are needed to prevent such a system. The ruling and opposition parties must urgently take remedial measures for that purpose.

There is also another serious problem involving an upper house lawmaker from the opposition NHK Party. GaaSyy, whose real name is Yoshikazu Higashitani, has not returned to Japan since he won a seat in last year’s election, citing “fear of being unlawfully arrested.” He did not attend the extraordinary Diet sessions in summer and autumn and has not participated in any Diet deliberations or votes.

As a Diet member, he has a mandate from the public, who are sovereign members of society. He is disregarding his duty to deliberate on national politics.

This month, the Metropolitan Police Department searched locations affiliated with the lawmaker on suspicion of allegations including defamation of prominent figures. In response, he indicated he would return to Japan in early March to answer questions from the MPD and also attend the Diet session.

GaaSyy said he would return to Japan when budget deliberations are in full swing in the upper house, and would ask questions at a meeting of the upper house Committee on General Affairs, to which he belongs.

However, since the ordinary Diet session will be convened on Jan. 23, he will once again be absent from the Diet for more than a month.

This continuous mockery of the Diet must not be tolerated. The NHK Party, which has accepted the lawmaker’s stance, also bears a heavy responsibility.

According to the Diet Law, if lawmakers fail to appear within seven days of the start of a session without good reason and do not comply with requests from the house speaker or president to attend, they will be referred to the Committee on Discipline. It is reasonable that GaaSyy, who has been absent from Diet sessions for selfish reasons, will be referred to the disciplinary committee.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 18, 2023)