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Abe's aide blasted for hints at replacing speaker over stalled constitutional revision

Koichi Hagiuda (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- Koichi Hagiuda, executive acting secretary-general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), came under fire after mentioning the possibility of replacing House of Representatives Speaker Tadamori Oshima if Diet discussions on constitutional amendment remained stalled.

"If talks on the issue wouldn't proceed with current members, it is extremely important to appoint someone influential as speaker (of the lower house) for the Diet to make a shift toward constitutional revision," Hagiuda told an online program on July 26.

The remark came after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe once again expressed his eagerness to promote discussions on constitutional amendment following the July 21 House of Councillors election, even though forces in favor of constitutional reform failed to retain a two-thirds majority in the chamber. Hagiuda is known as Abe's close aide. Opposition parties have reacted sharply to Hagiuda's remark, while some in the ruling coalition have raised concerns about the comment adversely affecting debate in the commissions on the Constitution in both chambers of the Diet.

A former Cabinet member of the LDP condemned Hagiuda's statement, saying, "It is an intervention in Diet affairs. The remark would halt talks in the Diet's commissions on the Constitution, keeping constitutional revision stalled."

Sanae Takaichi, chairperson of the lower house's Committee on Rules and Administration, was also critical of Hagiuda's remark. "I can't agree with him. The lower house speaker is not only engaged in matters in the constitutional commissions but is also responsible for the entire management of the chamber," she told reporters in the Diet building on July 29.

Noritoshi Ishida, policy chief of the LDP's junior coalition partner Komeito, quipped, "His statement makes me raise questions, including his intentions behind it. His remark brings no benefits."

Opposition parties are lashing out against the comment in question. Akira Koike, secretariat chief of the Japanese Communist Party, told the press in Tokyo on July 29, "It is outrageous. The remark overturns the fundamental principles of separation of powers among the three branches of government. We must grill him over the comment, including his responsibility."

Yoshio Tezuka of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, who serves as top representative of the opposition bloc in the lower house Committee on Rules and Administration, lambasted Hagiuda, "It is extremely disrespectful. I wonder why he made such a comment when he doesn't have authority over personnel matters."

A senior member of the conservative opposition Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party), which is in favor of constitutional amendment, also decried Hagiuda's comment, saying, "It went too far."

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said during a press conference on July 29, "As the executive branch of the government, we withhold comments on individual news reports."

According to those familiar with the situation, Hagiuda has already apologized to lower house speaker Oshima over his comment.

(Japanese original by Shuhei Endo and Minami Nomaguchi, Political News Department)

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