Japan’s Opposition Parties Step up Offensive over Ginza Club Scandal

Opposition parties are stepping up their offensive as members of the ruling bloc have been forced to leave the Liberal Democratic Party or resign from the Diet for staying at a club in Tokyo’s Ginza district until late at night during the state of emergency.

Opposition members were considering directly asking Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga his opinion on the issue at meetings of the Committee on Rules and Administration to be held Tuesday in both houses of the Diet.

Diet affairs chiefs of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, the Japanese Communist Party and the Democratic Party for the People held a meeting at the Diet Building on Monday and agreed that they would ask the prime minister to attend Tuesday’s meetings. They also decided that if the ruling parties do not accept their request, they would not agree to start deliberations on the budget for fiscal 2021.

Suga did not attend meetings of the committees on Jan. 7, when an explanation was provided about the second state of emergency, or on Jan. 13, when the state of emergency was expanded.

CDPJ Diet affairs chief Jun Azumi met with his Liberal Democratic Party counterpart Hiroshi Moriyama, and Moriyama promised the prime minister would be present at the Tuesday committee meetings.

Opposition parties object to the fact that Jun Matsumoto, who resigned from the LDP over the club issue, provided a factually inaccurate explanation. Suga will have to explain the background of the “night at Ginza” at the meetings.

“The prime minister should assume a large share of the responsibility. We want him to explain the facts himself,” Azumi told reporters.

Given the spread of the novel coronavirus, opposition parties have been reluctant to bargain over the Diet schedule, as they believe they should cooperate with the government’s measures. However, as the scandal involving ruling bloc members came to light during the state of emergency, opposition parties have apparently changed their tactics and are using the Diet schedule to demand the government accede to its request for Suga’s attendance.

The approval rating for the Suga administration has been headed downward. “The damage to the ruling bloc will affect the House of Representatives election to be held by this autumn,” a senior CDPJ member said.