Diet timetable tight as opposition seeks answers from Kishida over Cabinet resignation

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Tsuyoshi Takagi of the Liberal Democratic Party, second from right, and Jun Azumi of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, third from right, attend a meeting of diet affairs committee chairpersons at the Diet building on Monday.

The government aims to pass a second supplementary budget for fiscal 2022 and a bill to help victims of the Unification Church by the end of the current Diet session on Dec. 10. But the timetable for Diet deliberations is getting tight, with opposition parties on the offensive following the resignations of ministers from the Cabinet of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

As a result, some ruling-party lawmakers have said it might be necessary to extend the current Diet session by around a week.

At a cross-party meeting on Monday, Liberal Democratic Party Diet Affairs Committee Chair Tsuyoshi Takagi was asked if Kishida would answer questions regarding the resignation of former Justice Minister Yasuhiro Hanashi at a plenary session at the House of Representatives.

“I need to talk with Kishida,” Takagi said.

Jun Azumi of the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan warned that if the request was turned down, his party would not participate in deliberations next week, aware that the ruling parties likely intend to start deliberations on the second supplementary budget on Monday.

When former economic revitalization minister Daishiro Yamagiwa resigned, the prime minister responded to questions about the matter during a plenary session. Kishida was reluctant to take questions from the opposition, but took the unusual step because of Takagi, prompting criticism from some LDP lawmakers.

“Takagi made a mistake,” a mid-ranking LDP member said. “It was obvious that setting a new precedent would result in a situation the opposition parties could exploit.”

It is thought that deliberations on the supplementary budget would be delayed by about a day if Kishida responds to questions about Hanashi’s resignation.

However, it is unclear whether subsequent budget deliberations will proceed as planned because Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Minoru Terada has also been grilled over a separate scandal related to the alleged abuse of political funds.

At a meeting of the House of Councillors’ Committee on Oversight of Administration on Monday, opposition lawmakers highlighted inaccuracies in his political funding reports, among other problems, and called for his resignation.

After the passage of the second supplementary budget, the government aims to pass a bill aimed at preventing religious organizations from pressuring people into making large donations and providing relief to victims of such groups.

The government aims to submit the bill in early December, but negotiations are not likely to proceed smoothly as there is a gulf between the positions of the ruling and opposition parties. Heated debates can be expected if negotiations break down.

Even if the supplementary budget is passed before the end of this month, less than 10 days will be left to discuss the bill before the end of the current Diet session.

Deliberations on other important bills have already been affected.

Hanashi’s resignation delayed voting on a Civil Code revision, which had been scheduled to take place on Tuesday.

The ruling and opposition parties also failed to reach an agreement on a bill to revise the infectious disease prevention law. Voting on the bill is now certain to be put off until next week or later.

Ruling party members believe the current Diet session could be extended until mid-December at the latest, during a period when the government is expected to be busy compiling next fiscal year’s budget and revising three defense documents, including the National Security Strategy.