The autumn extraordinary Diet session, shaken by the suspicion and scandal surrounding the annual sakura-viewing party hosted by the Japanese prime minister at public expense, closed up shop on Dec. 9.
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Opposition parties made an unusual request to extend the session but this was denied by the ruling bloc -- a move undoubtedly rooted in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)'s desire to shut down the public airing of sakura party suspicions. What's more, Abe did not refer to the issue once at the outset of his end-of-session speech to the media. When pressed by reporters, the PM simply recycled explanations we have all heard before. If Abe believes that he can win public understanding with these tactics, he is dreaming of the impossible.
The government has resorted to a string of stopgap excuses ever since questions about the sakura party were first raised, resulting in an expanding tangle of contradictory statements and failing to resolve even one of the doubts hovering around the event.
The LDP has promised to compel the government to explain the situation to the Diet down the road. In that case, out-of-session meetings of both Diet chambers' budget committees -- which the prime minister attends -- should be convened right away to function as transparent investigative committees.
The last Diet session left a great deal of unfinished business, led by continued debate on the Japan-U.S. trade agreement and addressing gridlocked Tokyo-Seoul relations. However, that the sakura party scandal devoured much of the legislature's valuable time is due in great part to Prime Minister Abe and the ruling parties. This could have been avoided had Abe simply ordered the Cabinet Office to conduct a rigorous investigation of the affair and provided explanations to the budget committees.
The sakura party is officially a public event, paid for from the state purse, and there are now severe doubts about whether it has been corrupted. It is very difficult for us to understand Abe, the LDP and their dismissive attitude to the very foundations of democratic politics.
Revelations that the party guest list was shredded also highlighted once more the Abe administration's penchant for destroying any public document it deems politically inconvenient. That happened in May, right at the time Diet members officially requested to see the list. It turned out that there was a digital backup of the list still extant at the time, a fact confirmed recently by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga. However, the top government spokesman insisted that a backup is not a public document, and the administration therefore had no duty to turn it over. This backup is also now, apparently, gone.
Faced with Abe administration stonewalling, the Japanese Communist Party launched its own investigation, which some other opposition parties are also cooperating with. Along with their role in the eventual postponement of new private English tests as part of a revamped university entrance exam system, we must congratulate the opposition parties for their vigorous checks on government policy to a certain degree.
During the recently concluded Diet session, the latest iteration of the Abe Cabinet lost two top members to scandal and resignation; trade minister Isshu Sugawara, and justice minister Katsuyuki Kawai. And yet, even as the ugly problem of money intertwined with politics once more raised its head, both ministers never delivered their promised explanations. This we cannot countenance.
In sum we are forced to conclude that the Abe administration, so long in power, has become yet more twisted and arrogant.