Question-and-Answer Sessions: Diet Debates No Place for Opposition Grandstanding over Reform Proposals

Support for the Cabinet and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party is declining, but expectations for the opposition parties are not rising. Although it is necessary to seek the truth about scandals, the low expectations for the opposition parties are quite natural as they merely raised their voices with extreme assertions.

At plenary sessions of each house of the Diet, representatives from each party asked questions about the policy speeches delivered earlier by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. The opposition parties focused on LDP factions’ alleged violations of the Political Funds Control Law.

Kenta Izumi, leader of the largest opposition party, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, criticized the scandal, saying, “It’s an unprecedented level of hidden funds, and a scandal of a different dimension.” Izumi asked Kishida to investigate all LDP lawmakers to see if there are any funds that have not been listed in their political funds reports and to report the results to the Diet.

In response, Kishida said that the LDP “will conduct interviews with the persons concerned as soon as possible.”

Nobuyuki Baba, leader of Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party), asserted that “the reform proposals compiled by the LDP are far from drastic reform.”

While it is true that the opposition parties have a role to play in monitoring the administration, it is regrettable that much of the deliberation time has been spent on the issue of politics, and money and debates on domestic and foreign issues have not been deepened.

Izumi and Baba also explained their own parties’ political reform proposals.

The CDPJ proposals would prohibit lawmakers from holding their political fundraising parties themselves, and would introduce a guilt-by-association system, under which if people responsible for a lawmaker’s accounting are found guilty of violating the law, the lawmaker would automatically take responsibility for the violation.

The Ishin proposals would allow lawmakers to hold political fundraising parties, but they would prohibit corporations and organizations from purchasing party tickets. Like the CDPJ proposals, the Ishin proposals also include the introduction of the guilt-by-association system.

Until the LDP political funds scandal came to light, many opposition party lawmakers held their own political fundraising parties. How do they intend to collect the funds necessary for their political activities while restricting such parties?

On the other hand, the guilt-by-association system mirrors a provision of the Public Offices Election Law that invalidates a lawmaker’s election win if their secretaries and others commit bribery or other violations, in order to maintain the fairness of elections, even if the lawmakers themselves were not directly involved in such violations.

The opposition parties are apparently aiming to promote their reform stances by insisting on the guilt-by-association system. However, is it really appropriate to equate fraud in elections, which are the very foundation of democracy, with violations of the Political Funds Control Law, which could be unintentional procedural errors? Careful consideration is needed.

In addition, Izumi said that discussions on a stable succession to the Imperial throne should be promoted, and the prime minister expressed his understanding.

Two years ago, a government panel of experts submitted to the Diet a report stating that women born into the Imperial family should be able to remain as members after marrying. The time has come for the ruling and opposition parties to deepen discussions so that the Imperial family system can be maintained in the future.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 2, 2024)