Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Reforming the Diet

Speaking at a press conference at the Diet on Wednesday, a group of seven young members of the House of Representatives from the LDP and the DPJ announced their intention to submit independently a Diet reform bill that will draw up rules of the game for the divided Diet.

The members from the LDP are Kono Taro, Shibayama Masahiko, Mizuno Kenichi, and Yamauchi Koichi; the members from the DPJ are Mabuchi Sumio, Hosono Goji, and Izumi Kenta.

Their proposal, according to Asahi, has eight parts: (1) abolish the rule whereby legislation unresolved in one session do not carry over to the next; (2) separate of the functions of lawmaking and administrative oversight; (3) permit Diet members to vote their consciences more often; (4) end the custom whereby parties oversee independent Diet members' bills; (5) end restrictions on foreign travel for cabinet ministers while the Diet is in session; (6) require members to submit questions to government ministers no later than forty-eight hours in advance; (7) fix the schedule of committee meetings in advance; (8) reform the plenary session so that debates on important subjects occur there.

These proposals are eminently sensible, and could actually make the Diet a more robust institution, but it seems unlikely to me that they will go anywhere. Proposals 3 and 4 in particular will draw fire from senior politicians, as they would decentralize both parties by curtailing the power of party executives over backbenchers. Of course, the spirit of these proposals — rationalizing Diet proceedings and making them more transparent — is aimed at the wheeling and dealing of senior politicians like Mr. Ozawa, the kind of politicking that leads to backroom bargaining like the discussions between Mr. Ozawa and Mr. Fukuda over a grand coalition.

This kind of plan might earn the sympathy of other young Diet members, but I suspect that both parties will lean heavily on their backbenchers to stifle these proposals, whether by rejecting them outright or killing them softly by watering them down.

1 comment:

Bryce said...

Not that I don't think these are good ideas, but it may well be that the first suggestion is unconstitutional. Article 52 states that one (ordinary) session of the Diet should be convoked per year. I think the stipulation that legislation be brought over from previous sessions would make a mockary of the whole definition of the term "session".