TOKYO -- Japan's ruling parties plan to vote on controversial bills expanding the nation's defense powers in a lower house committee Wednesday despite the lack of support from the opposition camp, risking public criticism for a forceful maneuver.
The ruling Liberal Democratic Party and junior coalition partner Komeito have been trying to secure the help of the opposition Japan Innovation Party, aiming to avoid criticism over railroading the bills into law. But with their talks going nowhere, the ruling bloc decided Tuesday to press ahead with a committee vote that all opposition parties will likely sit out. The full lower house is expected to vote on the legislation as early as Thursday.
"There was talk of Innovation voting in favor, but since that seems not to be the case, let's end" the deliberations, LDP Vice President Masahiko Komura said Tuesday after roughly two hours of discussions between the ruling bloc and the party.
The government and the ruling coalition were initially cautious about passing the bills with just the ruling parties' votes. With scholars invited to a parliamentary hearing calling the legislation unconstitutional, public opinion is deeply divided. Cooperation with Innovation, which submitted its own counterproposal, was therefore deemed crucial, if only to avoid the perception that the ruling bloc is using its lower house majority to approve unpopular legislation.
But Innovation, while holding talks with the ruling camp, joined with the opposition Democratic Party of Japan to ask for extending deliberations until later this month.
Given the uncertain prospects for Innovation's cooperation, the ruling bloc decided to move ahead. Once the lower house passes the bills, they will go to the upper house, where the opposition has a stronger presence. If the upper house does not vote on them within 60 days, they will be regarded as rejected -- but the lower house could still turn the measures into law with a two-thirds supermajority. The ruling coalition thus wants to ensure that the upper house has 60 days to debate the bills in order to invoke the lower house's supermajority override.
Railroading the security legislation through the Diet would anger opposition parties, affecting deliberations on other bills. It could also hurt the cabinet's approval rating, considering the public's deep skepticism.