2nd Half of Diet Session: It Is Time to Deliver Results to Dispel Distrust in Politics

The fact that substantive Diet deliberations have been stalled for so long due to the political funds issue is troubling. Now is the time to decide on specific reform measures, such as to make political funds more transparent. Results are also needed on a mountain of other important issues.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida held a press conference following the passage of the fiscal 2024 budget. “We are still only halfway along the path to overcoming deflation,” he said, stressing his intention to shift away from a cost-cutting economy that suppresses wages and investment.

It is reasonable that the prime minister should aim to reform the deflation-oriented mindset, which seeks low prices, and create a society in which wage increases are the norm.

“I will make sure that wage increases exceeding price hikes take root in the next year and beyond,” Kishida said. This can be called a demonstration of Kishida’s desire to remain in power.

However, approval ratings for his Cabinet are extremely low. It remains to be seen whether the political situation will develop as the prime minister intends.

To dispel the public’s distrust in politics, the prime minister should first address the issue of responsibility for the violation of the Political Funds Control Law by Liberal Democratic Party factions.

The LDP plans to take punitive action as early as next week against members of the Abe and Nikai factions, who were found to have omitted information on their political funds reports. As LDP president, the prime minister has heard from former Abe faction executives about the situation.

It is extraordinary for a prime minister to take part in an investigation of the party’s internal disciplinary measures. The prime minister may have wanted to emphasize his own leadership, but this does not seem like a role a prime minister should play.

The prime minister should quickly compile the LDP’s proposals for revising the Political Funds Control Law and begin discussions with each party.

The ruling and opposition parties plan to shortly establish a special committee in the House of Representatives to begin discussion on revising the law. Issues to be discussed include the strengthening of penalties for lawmakers and a review of the provision of funds by political parties to individual lawmakers for political activities.

In addition to the political funds issue, there are many other issues that need to be resolved. Deliberations await for critical bills, including one to establish a security clearance system that will allow the government to authorize individuals to handle important information for economic security purposes.

The security clearance system is intended to prevent the outflow of important technology and information to foreign countries for the sake of economic security. The system would allow the government to investigate the backgrounds of public officials and corporate employees and certify those for whom no problems are found.

Some opposition parties are against the system, claiming that the background checks may be an invasion of privacy. However, background checks will require the consent of the person to be investigated.

The government will have to carefully explain the significance of the legislation and come up with appropriate measures to ensure that those who do not consent to the background checks will not be disadvantaged because of it.

With less than two years remaining in the term of lower house members, the second half of the current Diet session will likely progress with a possible lower house dissolution in mind.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 30, 2024)