The Mainichi answers some common questions readers may have about Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's policy speech delivered in the Diet on Jan. 20.
Question: Does the prime minister always give a policy address when the Diet is convened?
Answer: The policy speech is given at the outset of a regular Diet session, which is called in January every year. In the address, the prime minister announces the basic policies for the Cabinet concerning state affairs over the coming year.
At the beginning of an extraordinary or special session of the Diet, the prime minister also gives a policy statement, expressing their belief and views in dealing with state affairs.
Q: There are rules for those speeches, aren't there?
A: No, there are no set rules under the Constitution or laws, but those speeches are delivered as part of long-running customary practices. That's why the content of the addresses varies from time to time, depending on the thoughts of the prime minister, the state of affairs in Japan and abroad, and issues faced by the country.
Prime Minister Abe did not give a speech at the outset of the special Diet session in December 2012, shortly after he returned to power. In the ensuing regular Diet session convened in January 2013, he delivered both types of speeches.
Q: Did other politicians also deliver speeches in the Diet on Jan. 20?
A: Yes. At the beginning of an ordinary Diet session, the foreign minister makes a speech about foreign policy while the finance minister delivers an address about public finance and the minister of state for economic and fiscal policy speaks about the economy. Together with the prime ministerial policy address, these speeches are called "the government's four statements."
In response to the speeches, question and answer sessions involving the leaders of parliamentary factions will take place in both chambers of the Diet for a total of three days.
Q: Will they discuss the government's policies for this year?
A: The opposition parties are expected to raise questions about the controversial cherry blossom-viewing parties hosted by Prime Minister Abe, and the bribery scandal relating to the government's "integrated resort" project including casinos. As a matter of course, Abe ought to answer questions sincerely in a way that can convince the public. The opposition bloc is also urged to deliver questions about key policy issues, such as social security and constitutional revision.
(Japanese original by Masahiro Tateno, Political News Department)