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Lawmaker sues gov't for not swiftly convening Diet session amid Abe favoritism scandals

OKAYAMA -- A legislator from the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP) has sued the government over the failure of the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to swiftly convene an extraordinary Diet session to enable legislators to probe Abe's favoritism scandals, despite a demand made by opposition lawmakers.

In the suit filed with the Okayama District Court on Feb. 26, Takashi Takai, 48, a member of the House of Representatives, is demanding 1.1 million yen in state redress.

"I've deemed it necessary to seek a judicial ruling to resolve the matter," he told a news conference.

In a separate news conference on Feb. 26, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga defended the prime minister's timing for the opening of the extraordinary Diet session and dissolution of the lower chamber. "The convening of the extraordinary session and the dissolution of the House of Representatives last year was based on the Constitution and was appropriate," Suga said.

Takai claims that the prime minister violated Article 53 of the Constitution by failing to convene a Diet session for over three months after opposition legislators' demand. He also accuses Abe of infringing on his right to ask questions in the legislature about the favoritism scandals.

Article 53 of the supreme law states, "The Cabinet may determine to convoke extraordinary sessions of the Diet. When a quarter or more of the total members of either House makes the demand, the Cabinet must determine on such convocation."

However, as the clause does not state the time frame for convening an extraordinary session, the timing of opening such a session is left to the discretion of the Cabinet.

On June 22, 2017, opposition legislators demanded that an extraordinary session be convened under the clause to grill the government over favoritism scandals involving two school operators -- Osaka-based Moritomo Gakuen and Okayama-based Kake Educational Institution. However, the Abe Cabinet did not convene such a session until Sept. 28 -- 98 days after the demand was made.

Moreover, the prime minister dissolved the lower house at the outset of the extraordinary session to call a snap general election on Oct. 22. As a result, the Diet did not have deliberations at all during the session.

According to the plaintiff, demands for Diet sessions have been made 13 times over the past four decades under Article 53. Sessions were actually convened on 10 occasions. In most cases, the sessions were opened within 20 days after the demand was made. In the three other cases in which the Cabinet refused to comply, a regular Diet session began within 79 days after the demand.

In his suit, Takai points out that Article 54 of the Constitution stipulates that the Diet must be convened within 30 days from the date of a general election, and that a draft of a new Constitution that the ruling Liberal Democratic Party unveiled in 2012 states that a Diet session should be opened within 20 days after a general election.

Based on these stipulations, Takai argues that Prime Minister Abe should have convened an extraordinary session within 20 days of opposition legislators' demand.

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