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Editorial: Japan Diet session ends with prime minister's self-righteous stance unchanged

An ordinary session of the Diet that focused primarily on Japan's response to the coronavirus pandemic ended on June 16.

    Opposition parties had called for an extension of the session to allow Japan to respond flexibly to the crisis, but the ruling parties rejected their request. Considering concerns that the Delta virus variant could spread in Japan, we can only say that the ruling coalition's decision is irresponsible.

    What the 150 days of Diet debate brought into sharp relief is that Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga would neither attempt to confront the public's misgivings nor accept criticism.

    People remain uneasy about holding the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games amid the coronavirus pandemic. During the Diet session, the prime minister merely repeated that he will "pour all efforts into making the games safe and secure" but did not specify any standards for conditions to allow the games to be held.

    The government has repeatedly declared and lifted states of emergency over the coronavirus. Surely the reason Suga was late in issuing the declaration in January was that he was focused on the Go To subsidy campaign -- aimed at revitalizing pandemic-hit domestic industries -- while prioritizing the economy.

    When that state of emergency was fully lifted across Japan in March, the opposition parties expressed reservations that it was "too soon." But the prime minister did not listen to them and ended up failing to prevent a fourth wave of infections from spreading across the country.

    During the recent party leaders' debate, Suga was pressed on these issues, but he dodged the questions, stressing that every member of the public wishing to be vaccinated would get their COVID-19 shots by October or November.

    We cannot allow Suga to skip explanations to the public just because vaccinations are proceeding. Unless the government reflects on and inspects its response to date, it may repeat the same mistakes in the future.

    Suga's stance of making light of explanations was not just limited to Japan's coronavirus response. Regarding a scandal in which his eldest son and others at a broadcasting company were found to have repeatedly wined and dined senior officials from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, the prime minster continued to fend off criticism with the claim that his son had a "completely different personality" from his. There was also a spate of incidents involving politics and money extending to Diet members close to Suga, including former Minister of Justice Katsuyuki Kawai, but he has made no attempt to fulfill his accountability.

    Furthermore, regarding the problem that erupted when Suga refused to appoint six recommended scholars to the Science Council of Japan, he has still not provided a reason for his refusal.

    The prime minister is reportedly considering dissolving the House of Representatives during an extraordinary session of the Diet expected to be convened in September. It is problematic that the Diet will not be functioning until then. The opposition parties are seeking deliberations while the Diet is in recess. There is a need for Prime Minister Suga to create an opportunity to attend out-of-session talks himself.

    Even if the prime minister is not eloquent in his responses, he can at least try to respond sincerely. Suga should reform his self-righteous stance to provide sincere explanations to the public.

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