Ordinary Diet Session Closes: Despite Success in Passing Bills, Distrust in Politics Remains

Although important bills submitted by the government were passed smoothly, the “politics and money” issue lingered and distrust in politics could not be dispelled. The government and the ruling and opposition parties bear a heavy responsibility for this.

The ordinary Diet session has effectively come to a close. Of the 62 bills submitted by the government in this Diet session, 61 were passed, except for one to expand the sea area for the installation of offshore wind power generation.

A bill to establish a security clearance system to authorize those who handle important economic security information was criticized by some as an invasion of privacy because the system involves examinations into their personal backgrounds.

However, in addition to the ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito, other parties, including the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, the Japan Innovation Party and the Democratic Party for the People, voted in favor of the bill.

In the international community, advanced technologies in the private sector, such as cyber-related technologies and artificial intelligence, are rapidly being converted to military use. The protection of sensitive information has also become an urgent issue. It is likely that such awareness is spreading among the opposition parties as well.

The JIP and the DPFP have also endorsed the revised Local Autonomy Law, which allows the central government to give instructions to local governments in times of emergency. It is noteworthy that the opposition parties have not focused solely on criticism, but rather have faced up to real issues and cooperated with the ruling parties.

If important bills are enacted, it should be an achievement for the Cabinet. However, the approval ratings of the Cabinet of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida remain sluggish. The impact of the political funds issue was undoubtedly a major factor, but the poor handling of it may have amplified distrust in politics.

When the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office seemed likely to build a case against the Kishida faction — which the prime minister had led — in addition to the Abe and Nikai factions, Kishida abruptly announced its dissolution.

The drafting of a revision of the Political Funds Control Law was initially left to working-level lawmakers from the LDP and Komeito. However, Kishida settled the matter suddenly by accepting almost without reservation proposals made by Komeito and the JIP during separate meetings with their party leaders.

It is necessary for the prime minister to make decisions that go beyond the judgment of working-level lawmakers and others. However, he took an approach that was apparently intended to cause surprise effects without explaining his intentions in advance, which invited confusion in the handling of the revision bill in the Diet.

In order for the prime minister to overcome the crisis in his administration, it is essential for him to work together with his party to stabilize politics.

The opposition parties, too, being aware of the upcoming House of Representatives election, focused only on giving the impression of the LDP’s reluctance to deal with the political funds issue.

Political funds are supposed to be the common foundation of the ruling and opposition parties to support their political activities. Each party needs to quickly discuss and reach effective conclusions on the numerous issues that remain unresolved, such as the establishment of a third-party organization to monitor the handling of political funds.

There is a mountain of internal and external issues to be addressed. The ruling and opposition parties should actively make use of deliberations held while the Diet is closed to deepen discussions.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 22, 2024)