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Editorial: Japan Innovation Party must take ongoing responsibility for Maruyama

A motion denouncing House of Representatives member Hodaka Maruyama, who was expelled from Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party) after alluding to war with Russia to regain control of the Northern Territories, was unanimously approved in the lower house on June 6.

The motion states that Maruyama "is not qualified to be a National Diet member," effectively urging him to resign. Maruyama should face the music and accept the motion gracefully.

The nation's ruling parties had refused to agree to a separate motion that the opposition camp initially proposed, which demanded Maruyama's resignation, and instead submitted a resolution to "strongly reprimand" Maruyama. Ultimately, the ruling and opposition blocs reached a compromise with a motion to denounce the legislator.

While it took almost a month from the incident to do so, the fact that the lower house was able to declare its position on the issue is worthy of praise. The legislature clarified its view that a statement which could be construed as approving war to settle a dispute between Japan and another country "goes against the pacifism of Japan's Constitution." This is a significant step.

Maruyama made his controversial statement on Kunashiri Island, which is part of the Russian-controlled Northern Territories off Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost prefecture. At the time, he was with a group of former residents of the island during a visa-free exchange program between Japan and Russia. During his trip, he drank copious amounts of alcohol and made offensive, lurid remarks. He got into scuffles with members of the delegation because he tried to force his way out of their accommodations, which he was prohibited from doing. The Diet resolution denouncing Maruyama declared that the lawmaker "significantly degraded the lower chamber's authority and dignity."

What's shocking is that Maruyama himself does not see the entire hoopla that way. Although he has apologized for and retracted his remarks about waging war, he has not submitted to questioning from the lower house Committee on Rules and Administration. In a letter of explanation he submitted to the committee, he denied that there were any grounds for a criminal case or that there had been any illegal activity.

Admittedly, National Diet members receive a mandate from the people through elections, giving them high standing. The case of Takao Saito (1870-1949), a member of the then Imperial Diet who was expelled from the legislature after criticizing Japan's war against China, is evidence that speech should not be suppressed through sheer strength in numbers.

However, Maruyama's remarks and actions do not amount to "speech" deserving of protection. The resolution denouncing him passed on June 6 included the rare criticism that "such obscene language and behavior raise doubts about his integrity as a human being, more so than as a lawmaker."

Maruyama was first elected to the lower chamber when the Japan Innovation Party made extraordinary strides, particularly in the Kansai region, in the 2012 general election. His election was largely due to the popularity of the conservative opposition party, which was pushed to the fore in his campaign. Keeping Maruyama's punishment to a simple expulsion from the party would be irresponsible. The Japan Innovation Party should pour its efforts into convincing Maruyama to resign from the Diet.

Besides Maruyama, a prospective candidate for the upcoming House of Councillors election who was expected to run on a Japan Innovation Party ticket was forced into giving an apology after making a statement that could contribute to prejudice toward "buraku" communities -- a social class that was historically discriminated against in Japan. In the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, too, Diet members who were newly elected in the 2012 general election have been dubbed "the dreadful third-termers," with many resigning or leaving the party due to scandals.

To the very end, the responsibility for a candidate's quality lies with the political party that backed the candidate in the first place.

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