Hard to Say Important Policy Issues were Thoroughly Debated

Just because the passage of bills went smoothly with the cooperation of some opposition parties, it is problematic if the government and ruling parties take lightly serious debate on a variety of policy issues.

The ordinary Diet session has come to a close. Of the 61 bills submitted by the government, 59 were passed into law.

Among them, the law to secure financial resources for defense spending is designed to accumulate nontax revenues in order to cover an increase in defense spending, in light of the worsening security environment surrounding Japan. The law focusing on extending the operational period of nuclear power plants is aimed at addressing the issues of decarbonization and stable power supply.

Both of these laws are aimed at resolving pending issues facing Japan, and their enactment is of great significance.

Regarding the revised Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law, which reviewed the treatment of foreign nationals subject to deportation, the bill modified by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, its coalition partner Komeito, Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party) and the Democratic Party for the People, was passed into law.

It is noteworthy that the ruling and opposition parties cooperated to form a consensus for a better system.

On the other hand, questions remained as to the stance of the government and ruling parties on important issues.

The committee deliberations on the law to promote understanding of sexual minorities lasted only one day in both chambers of the Diet, and each session ended after only about three hours of debate.

Despite many ambiguous expressions and problems with the content, there was no clear explanation from LDP lawmakers who submitted the bill. As it stands, the law could encourage situations in which men with malicious intent claim “I’m a woman” to use women-only spaces.

There is a great risk that the hasty passage of the bill on “an issue that will change society” without thorough debate might sow the seeds of trouble for the future.

The law regarding the policy to abolish health insurance certificates in autumn next year and integrate them into My Number identification cards was enacted. But it was revealed that many problems involving the cards have arisen over the past two years. In some cases, even when patients presented My Number cards linked to their health insurance certificates at medical institutions, the cards were not accepted as valid.

Not only opposition parties but also coalition partner Komeito have been cautious about the policy involving My Number cards, saying that there is no need to charge ahead with the policy. However, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has stressed that he will not change his policy of abolishing health insurance certificates. Where has Kishida’s “ability to listen” gone?

This Diet session has also witnessed a series of situations that have shaken the authority of the legislature.

A member of the House of Councillors, who had remained overseas and had not once appeared in the Diet since last year’s upper house election, was expelled from the chamber and arrested on charges of threatening celebrities on a video-sharing website. Another upper house member injured two other Diet members in an attempt to forcibly prevent a vote on a bill.

Behavior that undermines the highest organ of state power is unacceptable. All parties need to exercise thorough discipline.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 22, 2023)