Security-related bills, which have been the main focus of attention in the current Diet session, passed the House of Representatives special committee on Wednesday with a majority vote from the ruling coalition, while members of the major opposition parties did not take part.
The Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito voted in favor of the bills at a session of the Special Committee on Legislation for the Peace and Security of Japan and the International Community, which is chaired by Yasukazu Hamada. Committee members from three opposition parties — the Democratic Party of Japan, the Japan Innovation Party and the Japanese Communist Party — did not vote.
The ruling parties aim to pass the bills through the lower house plenary session and send them to the House of Councillors on Thursday.
A final question-and-answer session was held in the special committee ahead of the vote.
During the session, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe explained why the legislation was needed. “We have to closely watch for changes in the security environment,” he said.
“The bills are necessary to enable a seamless response and to protect the lives of the people,” Abe emphasized. “Regrettably, we have not yet made much progress in gaining public understanding. I’ll make greater efforts in this respect.”
Demanding cancellation of the vote, DPJ Acting President Akira Nagatsuma said to the prime minister: “Do you really think your explanations were adequate? We cannot accept the steamrollering of the bills.”
Mikio Shimoji, a JIP member, contended that deliberations should continue in the special committee, saying, “Looking at the results of public opinion polls, discussions [by the committee] cannot be regarded as sufficient.”
After the final question-and-answer session, the opposition party members submitted a motion demanding that deliberations continue, but the ruling parties turned this down.
DPJ members and others crowded around the desk of the committee chairman and the situation became chaotic. In the midst of this situation, the vote was held.
JIP members voted for a bill they submitted to counter the ruling parties’ bills, but left their seats when the vote on the ruling parties’ bill was held.
After the vote at the special committee, DPJ President Katsuya Okada told reporters: “We strongly protest [the ruling parties’] railroading of the bills, which mark a big turning point in the nation’s security policy. [The ruling parties] must nullify the vote and restart deliberations on the bills.”
JIP leader Yorihisa Matsuno said, “Though we came up with a bill that was easier to understand than those submitted by the government, it is regrettable that it was voted down after only a brief debate.”
Tsutomu Sato, chairman of the LDP’s Diet Affairs Committee, said: “Though it’s said that no progress has been made in winning the understanding of the public, our mission is to make a bigger effort from now on. It seems that all points of dispute have already been presented, and we proceeded with the vote knowing it would be criticized.”
Ahead of the committee vote, the LDP and Komeito held a meeting of their secretaries general and Diet affairs committee chiefs in the morning in Tokyo, and confirmed that the parties would aim to pass the bills through the lower house on Thursday.
If the lower house passes the bills, the ruling parties will be able to pass them again on Sept. 14 or later under the so-called 60-day rule. Under Article 59 of the Constitution, the lower house can pass bills again if the upper house fails to hold a vote on them within 60 days of receiving the bills from the lower house.