Censure motion on hold for now

As the close of the Diet session approaches — and with it, the presumed re-passage of the new anti-terror bill in the HR — the DPJ has announced that it is reconsidering submitting an HC censure motion this session in response to the government’s use of its supermajority. It will instead save this motion for the regular Diet session, when the DPJ can use it in the midst of budget deliberations in the hope of bringing about an early election.

The LDP does not seem to be particularly worried. Nikai Toshihiro, head of the executive council, said in a TV appearance on Monday, “This has no foundation in the constitution or in the Diet law. If this card is played, it is not significant at all.”

The DPJ is right to reconsider passing a censure motion in response to the anti-terror bill. What exactly is the government doing that it deserves to be censured? Using the constitutionally mandated power of overruling the HC with a supermajority in the HR? Poorly managing the Defense Ministry (clearly an issue that transcends this government)? Defying public opinion? The reasoning behind censuring the Fukuda government has always struck me as shaky, especially since it became increasingly apparent that the government would probably ignore the resolution entirely, making the DPJ and the HR look impotent and irresponsible.

The DPJ’s introduction of its own bill on Afghanistan — now under deliberation in the HC Foreign Affairs Committee — is little better, especially at this point in the battle over the anti-terror mission, but at least it makes it look like the DPJ is playing a constructive role, even if its plan is far-fetched. It still remains unclear whether the HC will actively reject the government’s bill or whether the HC will remain inactive and let the sixty-day threshold pass. The other opposition parties disagree with the DPJ’s plan to do nothing except pass its own bill; they want the HC to reject the government’s bill outright.

It’s not clear to me what the DPJ is trying to accomplish by making the government wait until the very end of the session. The DPJ has probably worked this issue as much as it could. It forced the government to focus on seeing it through to the end, thereby distracting it from addressing the lifestyle issues that should have been Mr. Fukuda’s top priority from the day he took office as prime minister. The DPJ may not be as lucky in the new year. The Fukuda government needs to give the impression that it is obsessed with the pensions issue and other domestic problems, and so at this point, the less it talks about foreign policy, the better its political prospects.

(And yet, if the government is serious about pushing for a permanent JSDF dispatch law in the new year, the LDP and the DPJ might be debating about foreign policy again. But I don’t think doing so will be to the government’s advantage, especially since the DPJ will be reluctant to approve a law that will permit the government to extend the refueling mission without having to get permission from the Diet again next year.)

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