Issues Must be Faced Through Constructive Discussion, Not Petty Politics

Regarding issues that Japan is facing such as a declining population as well as a rapidly changing international situation, it can hardly be said that fruitful deliberations are being held in the current Diet session. The ruling and opposition parties need to be committed to engaging in policy-oriented debates.

The fiscal 2023 budget has been enacted, and with the ordinary Diet facing its scheduled end on June 21, the session has entered its second half.

Discussions during the first half of the session were focused on administrative documents concerning the interpretation of the Broadcasting Law, which were compiled by the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry between 2014 and 2015.

Based on these documents, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan criticized the government, claiming a special adviser to the prime minister at that time had pressured the ministry to change the interpretation of being “politically fair” as defined by the law. The government stressed that it merely added an explanation of the interpretation.

Then communications minister Sanae Takaichi, the current minister in charge of economic security, has described parts of the documents connected to her as “fabricated,” saying she would resign as a lawmaker if they were found to be authentic. Using her statement as a pretext, the opposition parties have been eager to force Takaichi to resign.

It is wearying that a back-and-forth debate was held simply over whether the documents were accurate, rather than having essential discussions such as how to ensure the political fairness of broadcasters.

The opposition parties see forcing Cabinet members to resign as if it were scoring points, thus they prioritize grilling them over allegations rather than deliberating policies. Such an attitude will not live up to the expectations of the public. The opposition parties must change their old way of challenging the ruling parties in debates.

Japan is in the midst of a crisis, including the declining population due to the low birth rate and the deteriorating security environment. Discussing effective measures to overcome these difficulties is the role the Diet should perform.

The government has recently announced a draft outlining such measures as improving and expanding the child allowance and making school lunches free as the main pillars of its children’s policies. In the second half of the Diet session, the ruling and opposition parties should examine whether the expected effects of the various measures will be appropriate and deepen the debate on the shape of a society where people find it easier to have and raise children.

During this latter half Diet session, deliberations on important bills get into full swing. The ruling and opposition parties will likely face off on bills to extend the life span of nuclear power plants beyond the current limit of 60 years.

Dealing with energy supply concerns is an urgent task. Extending the operational period of nuclear power plants is unavoidable. The government should provide detailed explanations to dispel public anxieties about the safety of nuclear power generation.

In May, the G7 summit will be held in Hiroshima. The leadership of Japan, as this year’s chair of the G7, will be put to the test in the effort to restore international order. Another key challenge is how to support Ukraine while maintaining the ideal of a pacifist nation.

It is important to discuss the state of Japanese diplomacy from a broad perspective.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 3, 2023)