The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 31, 2012)
LDP should put responsibilities ahead of party politics
The submission of a censure motion against Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda can serve no meaningful purpose.
Censure motions do not have the power to force prime ministers to dissolve the House of Representatives. It is shocking to witness the opposition camp putting party interests first, with members abandoning their legislative responsibilities.
On Wednesday, the opposition-controlled House of Councillors passed a censure motion against Noda. The motion was jointly submitted by seven political groups, including People’s Life First and Your Party. Most opposition groups, including the Liberal Democratic Party, approved the motion, outnumbering the ruling parties.
The censure motion denounced the enactment of the consumption tax hike bills, saying it disregarded public opinion. The motion also criticized the Democratic Party of Japan, LDP and New Komeito for cooperating to pass the bills, saying they “acted against the spirit of parliamentary democracy.”
However, this accusation seems strange, considering that about 80 percent of all lower and upper house members–including those from the LDP–voted in favor of the bills.
How could the LDP support such a censure motion at this stage? Through its members’ actions, the LDP has demeaned itself as a political party. On the other hand, Komeito stayed consistent with its pro-tax hike stance by abstaining from voting on the censure motion.
Time to cooperate on crucial issues
LDP President Sadakazu Tanigaki explained the party’s reason for approving the censure motion, saying, “The Noda administration has reached the limit of its ability to run the country, both in regards to domestic and foreign affairs.”
“The foundation of Japan’s diplomacy is now crumbling,” Tanigaki added.
However, Tanigaki’s remarks are not convincing reasons for censuring the prime minister.
The LDP cannot deny its role in longstanding territorial issues, such as the dispute over the Takeshima islands, as the party held the reins of government for so many years before the DPJ took power.
Now is the time for the ruling and opposition parties to join forces to deal with the threat of China, South Korea and Russia encroaching on Japan’s territory and waters. An act such as the censure motion is akin to shooting the prime minister in the back, and could undermine national interests.
Regarding domestic affairs, the DPJ, LDP and Komeito succeeded in joining hands to realize integrated reform of the social security and tax systems, as each party agreed that the nation must rebuild its finances.
The DPJ has been criticized for its high-handed management of the Diet, apparently a major problem in the party, which was demonstrated in cases such as the handling of bills to reform the lower house’s electoral system. Still, the censure motion could destroy the cooperative relationship developed among the three parties. In the worst-case scenario, the agreement between the leaders of the DPJ, LDP and Komeito to dissolve the lower house “sometime soon” could be scrapped.
‘Chamber of political maneuvering’
From now on, the LDP plans to refuse to participate in Diet deliberations except for the approval of personnel appointments for a nuclear regulatory commission and certain bills drafted by individual lawmakers. This means that the legislature will remain paralyzed on important issues.
Pressing legislation such as a bill to allow the government to issue deficit-covering bonds, bills on the introduction of a personal identification numbering system, and a bill asking the Diet to approve Japan’s joining the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, are still undecided in the Diet.
Unlike no-confidence motions passed against the Cabinet by the lower house, censure motions in the upper house do not create legal grounds for ousting Cabinet ministers. However, opposition parties have been using censure motions as a tool to attack the government and the ruling parties by refusing to participate in Diet deliberations and demanding the resignation of the prime minister and other Cabinet ministers.
How long will this malicious practice continue? We should not let the upper house become “the chamber of political maneuvering.”
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 30, 2012)