House of Representatives Speaker Tadamori Oshima took an unusual action in expressing his opinion on the ordinary session of the Diet that ended in July. Commenting on the government's tampering and hiding of public documents and the release of inaccurate data related to work-style reforms, he stated, "This is a problem shaking the foundations of democracy, from the viewpoint of the democratic monitoring of the administrative branch and the implementation of administrative programs entrusted by the general public."
The speaker asked both the administrative and legislative branches to reflect on the current situation.
Under the parliamentary Cabinet system, voters elect Diet members through a democratic procedure, and a majority of the lawmakers elect the prime minister, and this arrangement justifies the Cabinet's power to administer state affairs. People entrust their sovereignty to politicians through this process.
Therefore, the Diet has the power not only to make laws but to keep a watch on the administration for the public. For the use of its administrative power, the Cabinet is jointly responsible with the Diet, in which the Cabinet has its roots.
The speaker did not say anything special. His comments were common sense for anyone involved in national politics. But he had to make a point on this, and that shows we face a serious problem.
The administration betrayed the legislative branch representing the people, but the Cabinet just let some bureaucrats take the blame. No one is taking political responsibility.
In the Diet throughout the ordinary session, the ruling party has been negative about getting to the bottom of the controversies involving the tampering and hiding of public documents and the release of inaccurate data or finding out who was responsible. Lawmakers lack self-recognition that they are members of the Diet before they are members of the ruling party. As a result, the line of responsibility binding the administration and the legislature has been snapped.
So what can be done to make both the legislative and administrative branches serious again about what they are supposed to do? The lower house speaker proposed more active use of the power of the Diet to investigate government affairs, as stipulated in Article 62 of the Constitution.
The attempted use of this power to call sworn witnesses to the Diet by the opposition in their effort to investigate the favoritism controversies involving Moritomo and Kake educational institutions was stonewalled by the ruling bloc, which controls both houses of the national legislature.
In the German federal parliament, an investigative committee can be set up after gaining support from a quarter of lawmakers. Meanwhile, discussion is necessary to ease the conditions for the use of the Diet's investigative power in Japan.
Despite the sense of crisis held by the lower house speaker, who came from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), after the Diet entered a recess, the party is now gearing up for the election of its leader in September, and moves are gaining momentum within the party toward selecting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for a third term as LDP president.
One has to wonder if past LDP administrations ever made light of the solemn trust of the people to this extent.
The Diet is losing its authority under the almost unchallenged long-term rule of Prime Minister Abe.