The ruling coalition on late Nov. 26 railroaded the state secrets protection bill through the Lower House, ignoring overwhelming opposition at a public hearing the previous day in Fukushima city and outrage from opposition parties over the lack of debate.
With the current Diet session scheduled to end on Dec. 6, the Liberal Democratic Party and junior coalition partner New Komeito decided to ramrod the legislation through the Lower House in time for a vote in the Upper House. If passed by both chambers, the new law would instill harsher penalties, including up to 10 years in prison, for the leaking of designated state secrets.
At a morning session of the Lower House special committee on national security, the LDP and New Komeito put a bill that included revisions proposed by Your Party and the Japan Restoration Party to a vote to send it to the floor before final deliberations were held.
Opposition party directors of the special committee harshly criticized the move, saying sufficient debate had not been conducted.
Ruling coalition directors of the special committee proposed taking a vote on the legislation on the morning of Nov. 26. However, members from the Democratic Party of Japan, Japan Restoration Party, Japanese Communist Party and People's Life Party opposed the vote on the grounds of insufficient debate.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sat in on the session where questions were asked about the revised legislation. However, before further deliberations could be conducted in the special committee, an LDP director submitted a special motion requesting a vote on the legislation. LDP, New Komeito and Your Party members voted for the bill. Japan Restoration Party members left the committee room in protest, while other opposition parties voted against the legislation.
After the special committee vote, Gen Nakatani, an LDP director, said, "We revised the proposal as much as possible to address the concerns held by the public."
However, Atsushi Oshima, a DPJ director, called the vote a "defeat for the legislative branch."
After the vote, five opposition parties--the DPJ, Japan Restoration Party, JCP, People's Life Party and the Social Democratic Party--requested a meeting with Lower House Speaker Bunmei Ibuki to ask that the legislation not be brought to a vote before the entire Lower House. They argued that railroading the bill through the special committee was an outrage that damaged the fundamentals of a democracy.
Japan Restoration Party members had said they would support the revised legislation if they received assurances from the prime minister that a third-party organ would be set up to oversee the designation of state secrets.
Hiroshi Yamada, a Japan Restoration Party special committee member, asked Abe if he would set up such an entity. Abe twice said he would make efforts to set up such a body, adding, "I believe it would be better to set up such an organ."
Takao Fujii, a Japan Restoration Party special committee director, said after the session that Abe had given a clear response.
When asked why party members vacated the committee room before the vote, Fujii said that action was to protest the lack of debate.
However, because the establishment of a third-party agency has not been written into the legislation, it remains to be seen if it will actually be set up as stated by Abe.
Abe also said that the prime minister would serve in an oversight function regarding the designation and declassification of state secrets.
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