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Abe Takes Hardline Stance as Diet Session Looms

SNA (Tokyo) — This Week in Japan is your source for news and information about politics and other happenings in this East Asian island country. This episode covers the Top Five stories of the fourth week of October 2017.

One. Fresh off of his third consecutive general election victory, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe demonstrated none of the humility and sense of contrition over the Moritomo Gakuen and Kake Gakuen scandals that he had promised. Having ignored for months his responsibility under Article 53 of the Constitution to call a Diet session, then calling a snap election on the first day of the extraordinary session when it finally came, he then demanded this week that opposition lawmakers be stripped of much of their parliamentary time to question the government in the Diet. While it wasn’t clear if this latest maneuver would succeed, it once again demonstrated the prime minister’s alarming degree of contempt for democratic openness and accountability.

Two. The Democratic Party this week accepted the resignation as leader of Seiji Maehara and then quickly elected Kohei Otsuka of the House of Councillors as the new leader of the party. He was the only candidate to run, although former leader Renho had apparently wanted to do so had she gathered sufficient support. The only thing that was truly clear about this near-defunct opposition party was that additional significant changes could be expected in the near future.

Three. The Japan Innovation Party, which was hit by disappointing results in the general election, was not coping with the defeat very well, casting serious doubts on its viability—even in its Osaka heartland—for the months and years ahead. One of the more established lawmakers resigned from the party after being insulted on Twitter by party founder Toru Hashimoto. Meanwhile, Osaka Governor Ichiro Matsui’s leadership was being questioned and Hashimoto cut his formal links with the outfit. The party was clearly in crisis.

Four. The Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan was also not having an all-star week. The weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun published articles making separate sexual harassment accusations against two lawmakers. The veracity of the charges wasn’t entirely clear, especially in the case of lawmaker Akihiro Hatsushika, but the new progressive party was being forced on the defensive in this matter. It was certainly a striking fact that a single magazine threw two scandals at the fledgling opposition CDPJ alone, just as its popularity was spreading.

Five. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte was given full honors in Tokyo, including meetings with both Prime Minister Abe as well as Emperor Akihito. The Abe government seemed determined to pour on the charm—and the military and economic aid—to ensure that the Philippines would gravitate more towards Tokyo’s orbit than that of rival Beijing. All discussion of the Duterte regime’s atrocious human rights record was consigned to official oblivion.

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