Spotlight: Cabinet of Japanese PM endorses plan to convene extra Diet session amid opposition to Abe's snap election plans

Source: Xinhua| 2017-09-22 18:21:25|Editor: liuxin
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TOKYO, Sept. 22 (Xinhua) -- The Cabinet of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe formally announced on Friday the ruling coalition's plan to convene an extraordinary Diet session on Sept. 28, the outset of which will likely see Abe dissolve the lower house for a snap election.

The government's endorsement of the plan to disband the lower chamber of Japan's bicameral parliament was announced by Japan's top government spokesperson, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, at a meeting of both chambers' steering committees.

The move, however, has drawn staunch criticism from opposition parties.

They believe the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its junior Komeito party ally approving the premier's plan to dissolve the lower house without making a policy speech, is, in part, to purposely suppress parliamentary debate on a number of contentious issues.

The leader of the main opposition Democratic Party, Seiji Maehara, took aim at the plan saying that the prime minister not making a policy speech or allowing parliamentary deliberations, which would see Abe grilled by the opposition camp on accusations of cronyism, is an "act that ridicules the highest organ of state power."

On Friday, the Democratic Party refused to attend steering committees of the lower and upper houses, in protest of the ruling camp's bullish plan to dissolve the lower house.

The main opposition party a day earlier also abstained from attending steering committees of both houses that were scheduled to hold board meetings.

The meetings were subsequently canceled.

While the ruling coalition maintains that dissolving the lower chamber takes precedence over anything else, including Abe giving a policy speech, the holding of a budget committee meeting, and parliamentary deliberations on a ongoing influence-peddling scandals involving the prime minister, the opposition bloc ardently disagrees.

A member of the Japanese Communist Party on Friday told a meeting that the opposition camp had insisted the government convene an extraordinary session based on a constitutional provision.

The lawmaker stated that dissolving the lower house without holding any session would violate the constitution, Japan's public broadcaster NHK reported.

The Democratic Party, the Japanese Communist Party and two other smaller opposition parties maintain that allegations pertaining to cronyism and other such issues that are awaiting debate in parliament must be deliberated on during the extra session.

They have accused the ruling coalition of deliberately attempting to suppress Diet debate on contentious, scandal-linked issues that have plagued the LDP and seen the support rate for Abe's cabinet plummet to historic lows recently.

Despite protests from the opposition camp, LDP Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai said Thursday at a party meeting that Abe will hold a press conference when he returns from New York where he is currently attending the UN General Assembly.

Nikai said the press conference would be scheduled for Monday.

Also in focus ahead of the expected dissolution of the lower house and calling of a snap election is a new party to be formed by independent lawmaker Masaru Wakasa.

He announced plans earlier this week to field 50 or more candidates in the general election, which is expected to take place here on Oct. 22.

Wakasa, who will jointly launch the party with Goshi Hosono, the former environment minister who left the main opposition Democratic Party, said the party will be launched by Sept. 28 and be comprised of candidates from a political academy he has founded.

Wakasa, who has not announced who will lead the new party, but has said that he hopes his close ally, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, makes a return to national politics, will reportedly field candidates to cover all of Tokyo's 25 constituencies.

Wakasa's envisioned plan follows Koike's Tomin First no Kai (Tokyoites First party) sweeping victory in the Tokyo metropolitan assembly race in July, which embarrassed the LDP and revealed a discord among those in the capital for Abe's LDP, amid a myriad of damaging party-linked scandals and gaffes.

Political watchers have been quick to point out that the Tokyo metropolitan assembly race is widely regarded in political circles here as a barometer for the future direction of national politics.

The socially and politically divisive issues of amending Japan's pacifist constitution and issues pertaining to Japan's security and economy will be hotly debated in the upcoming election, political pundits have said.

LDP lawmaker Okiharu Yasuoka, who heads a panel on revising the constitution, stated recently that the party will likely include its intentions to revise the constitution in its campaign pledge.

The potential move has divided public opinion with a significant percentage of citizens here opposed to any amendments to key pacifist clauses carried in the national charter.

No amendments to the constitution have been made since its adoption after World War II.

The Japanese premier last dissolved the lower house of parliament in November 2014 and thereafter led the ruling coalition to a sweeping victory in the following election in December.

The prime minister has the authority to dissolve the lower chamber and call a general election at will.

Both the ruling and opposition parties, sources said Friday, have been intensifying their preparations for the expected general election and have drafted election pledges and discussed the paradigmatic frameworks of their overall political platforms.

The opposition parties, for their part, have been holding discussions on means of cooperation ahead of the expected election, in a bid to mount a serious challenge to the LDP-led coalition.