Japan’s Diet effectively closed amid unusual 9-day gap

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks in the upper house’s main chamber in the Diet Building in Tokyo on Friday.

The Diet is in the unusual situation of being open but effectively closed at the same time, as the budget committees of the upper and lower houses will not meet until Monday and only a limited number of other committees will gather in the meantime.

It’s customary to prioritize deliberations of the Budget Committee over other groups, so opposition parties have refused to hold some committee meetings.

Hiroshige Seko, secretary general for the Liberal Democratic Party in the House of Councillors said at a press conference Tuesday that “no more mistakes will be tolerated” regarding the future management of the Diet. He was referring to the fact that Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki’s plans to attend an international conference in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday and Thursday were not shared within the LDP and the government, affecting the Diet schedule.

Questions from each party in response to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s policy speech ended Friday. Meetings of the budget committees of the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors, which the prime minister and all the Cabinet members attend, are normally held right after the questioning sessions.

A nine-day gap, including weekends and holidays, is unusual. The most recent similar situation was in 2012, when there was a 10-day gap in the extraordinary Diet session under the Democratic Party’s leadership.

Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Seiji Kihara and LDP Diet Affairs Committee Chairperson Tsuyoshi Takagi act as liaisons between the Prime Minister’s Office and the LDP regarding the management of the Diet. In September, the prime minister attended the U.N. General Assembly and a state funeral was held for former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. This lead some to believe that Kihara had a lot on his plate and could not coordinate matters properly.

A senior LDP official said “the two coordinators are jointly responsible” for the current Diet situation.

The Special Committee on the Political Ethics and Election Law in the House of Representatives has been affected by the mishandling by the government and the LDP.

The special committee is to host questions of the chairman of the government’s council on constituencies, prior to deliberation of a proposed amendment to the Public Offices Election Law that would “increase by 10 and decrease by 10” the number of constituencies in the lower house.

The LDP has proposed holding a committee meeting this week to the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, but the CDPJ rejected the proposal, citing customary practice as the reason.

The upper and lower houses will field questions in several committee meetings on North Korea’s ballistic missile launch and other relevant events. The CDPJ and Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party) called for these meetings.

Some in the LDP have been critical, pointing out that CDPJ President Kenta Izumi asked questions of lower house Speaker Hiroyuki Hosoda at the party leader questioning session of the lower house on Oct. 5.

“The CDPJ uses the word ‘customary practice’ opportunistically,” a mid-ranking LDP official said.