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PM Abe, opposition expected to butt heads over multiple issues as Diet begins

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivers a policy speech at the plenary session of the House of Representatives on Jan. 22, 2018. (Mainichi)

The 196th ordinary session of the Diet was convened on Jan. 22, with the government and ruling parties hoping to accomplish the prompt passage of the fiscal 2017 supplementary budget and the fiscal 2018 draft budget in order to move on to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's pet policies.

Abe has assigned high priority to passing legislation related to work-style reform and integrated resort (IR) facilities that include casinos. Additionally, focus is on how deliberations in the respective Constitution commissions of the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors will progress in light of Abe's determination to propose amendments to the Constitution.

"The biggest focal point will be work-style reform. I want to come through on that," Prime Minister Abe told the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)'s joint plenary meeting of party members of both houses of the Diet on the morning of Jan. 22. "As for constitutional revision, it has long been under debate. We have a grave responsibility to make it a reality, and we have reached the time to do so."

The draft bill on work-style reform includes restrictions on long working hours, and an exemption of high-income workers that engage in "highly professional" work from those restrictions. Opposition parties are objecting to the LDP's plans to include both rules in a single bill, making it highly likely that lawmakers will butt heads in Diet deliberations.

Opposition parties are poised to question the Abe administration on its responsibility over scandals involving Moritomo Gakuen and the Kake Educational Institution, and a case of subsidy fraud involving executives of a company developing supercomputers.

On the morning of Jan. 22, Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP) chief Yukio Edano said at a joint plenary meeting of CDP members of both chambers of the Diet, "Today marks a milestone in which we start our full-fledged activities of this year."

Meanwhile, Party of Hope leader Yuichiro Tamaki told a party meeting, "We will face off with the Abe administration."

The Diet session will last 150 days, ending on June 20.

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