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The Japan News/Yomiuri
The Japan News/Yomiuri
The Yomiuri Shimbun

Kishida shows mettle as relief bill passes

The extraordinary session of the Diet that came to a close Saturday was shaken by the resignations of three Cabinet ministers, an unusual development that was problematic for Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

Yet, in the final phase of the session, Kishida managed to get through his plights by wielding his leadership to swiftly pass into law a bill designed to remedy and prevent damage from large donations to corporations or organizations.

"If we had not passed this bill, the administration would have been in real danger," a high-ranking government official said with a sense of relief. "The prime minister's judgment was superb."

For Kishida, the just-ended extraordinary Diet session was a succession of ordeals.

On Oct. 24, Daishiro Yamagiwa, who was then the economic revitalization minister, resigned after his ties to the Unification Church, formally known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, came to light time and again. The just-passed bill was created due to issues with the Unification Church and large donations.

Soon after Yamagiwa was forced out, Yasuhiro Hanashi, the then justice minister who made an inappropriate remark on the death penalty, and Minoru Terada, the then internal affairs and communications minister who was implicated in a money-and-politics scandal, resigned from Kishida's Cabinet. This was a rare "domino phenomenon" in which three ministers resigned in less than a month.

The prime minister was criticized even within his Liberal Democratic Party for a "lack of crisis management skills" as the pattern was seen as Kishida repeatedly relenting to pressure by opposition parties to dismiss the ministers.

The lack of coordination between the government and the LDP was also conspicuous. The schedule of Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki's visit to the United States was not shared, creating a hiatus in the Diet proceedings in early October.

The government and ruling parties had initially planned to put off the just-passed bill until the Diet session slated to start early next year. Kishida said on Oct. 18, however, "We are making preparations for it with the current Diet session in mind."

Although opinions within some corners of the government and the ruling coalition, such as calls for careful discussions, arose against doing so, Kishida overrode the objections.

Even before the Cabinet approved the bill, the ruling coalition held talks about it with opposition parties, such as the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party), to have their opinions reflected in the legislation.

There have been cases of cooperation between the ruling and opposition parties, such as over the Financial Reconstruction Law, enacted in 1998, in which the government and the LDP almost accepted the counterproposals of opposition parties as is, and a law related to the comprehensive reform of the social security and tax systems enacted in 2012, which focused on raising the consumption tax rate. But such precedents are few and far between.

Despite the bill's passage, Kishida's administration remains in a difficult situation. The government and ruling coalition are expected to engage in a debate over measures to secure financial resources for envisaged increases in defense spending.

'New starting point'

Following the passage into law of a bill designed to remedy and prevent damage stemming from the solicitation of large donations, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said, "We have just come to a new starting point."

Soon after the bill was passed Saturday evening, Kishida held a press conference at the Prime Minister's Office, emphasizing, "We would like to focus all our efforts on swiftly establishing an environment that will make it easier for victims to use the system."

Ahead of the press conference, Kishida held a meeting with the Special Committee on Consumer Affairs. There he presented his intention for the government to work out an article-by-article explanation of the contents of the law and make it widely known to the public early next year.

The law prohibits corporations and organizations, when soliciting donations from individuals, from causing individuals mental anguish by using any of six types of acts, such as so-called spiritual sales tactics. These tactics involve cajoling people into buying goods by claiming the objects will bring supernatural benefits. The law also states that the revocation of donations can be made for a period of up to 10 years. Requests for individuals to borrow money to give donations have also been prohibited.

Under the law, the national government is authorized to recommend or order a corporation or organization to stop these prohibited acts. Violation of an order carries a penalty of up to one year in prison or a fine of up to 1 million yen.

The law also stipulates three obligations of due consideration on the part of organizations when they solicit donations from individuals, including "not putting individuals in situations where it will be difficult to make appropriate judgments by suppressing their free will."

Opposition parties' wishes have been incorporated into the law, such as by enabling the government to make public the name of a corporation or organization, with conditions attached, when it fails to fulfill its duty of due consideration. The law also includes a provision that it is to be reviewed within two years of its enactment.

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