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Editorial: Japan PM Suga's refusal to discuss issues shows his irresponsibility as leader

The Japanese government and ruling parties have refused to convene an extraordinary Diet session despite requests by four opposition parties including the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan. The latest calls for the session were made based on the Constitution, and the ruling coalition's response is incomprehensible.

    Amid a coronavirus spread with no sign of abating, ruling and opposition parties should be having Diet discussions on expanding the health care system and securing finances.

    The opposition has demanded the government compile a supplementary budget and set aside several trillion yen (roughly tens of billions of dollars) in reserve funds to enable a flexible response that covers the political vacuum expected during the autumn House of Representatives election.

    The national government can freely use reserve funds without Diet deliberations. But it does not mean it has carte blanche over how it is spent. The Diet must also examine what's already been spent, including vaccination promotion and additional COVID-19 medicine costs, and assess whether funds were used appropriately.

    Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has indicated he intends to review standards for lifting coronavirus states of emergency, while considering the progress of vaccinations nationwide. If this is to be reviewed, he should provide an explanation in the Diet.

    At least one senior ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) member also remarked that an extraordinary Diet session needed to be held. That the prime minister refused to accede to the requests, nevertheless, can inevitably be seen as an attempt to evade opposition parties' questioning.

    Suga's tendency to turn his back on discussion is also evident in his approach to the LDP's leadership contest.

    Former chairman of the LDP Policy Research Council Fumio Kishida has announced his candidacy for the presidency, and emphasized his stance engaging in party reform. The move is believed to come from the assumption that LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai's five-year tenure is ending.

    In what appears to be an attempt to beat his opponent to the punch, the prime minister is said to be responding by arranging to reshuffle LDP executives, including Nikai, ahead of the party leadership contest.

    Shortly after Kishida spoke of the need for an additional stimulus package in the tens of trillions of yen (about several hundred billion dollars) to cushion the pandemic's economic impact, Suga also instructed senior LDP officials to prepare the measures.

    However, the supplementary budget including the economic stimulus package is only set for enactment after the lower house election, as early as the end of the year. If the LDP plans to withhold discussing the country's urgent issues in the Diet to benefit it in upcoming elections, the ruling party has taken its own interests too far.

    Furthermore, the prime minister apparently intends to dissolve the House of Representatives in mid-September. If his plan were to go ahead, it would mean the postponement of the LDP presidential election currently set for a formal announcement on Sept. 17 and voting on Sept. 29. We cannot help thinking this is to avoid debate even within the LDP.

    If a snap election is called, the failure of Prime Minister Suga's political stance to squarely and sincerely face the Japanese public will likely undergo severe scrutiny.

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