David Pilling / The Financial Times – 2008-01-13 23:31:08
TOKYO (January 10 2008) — The Japanese government is on Friday expected to use its two-thirds majority in the lower house of parliament to ram through controversial anti-terror legislation in what would be the first use of such override powers in more than half a century.
The administration of Yasuo Fukuda, prime minister, has invested substantial political capital in the legislation, which would allow Japanese naval vessels to resume supplying oil to allied ships on anti-terror patrols in the Indian Ocean. If the bill is passed on Friday, Japanese ships are expected to set sail within weeks.
The anti-terror law is opposed by the opposition Democratic Party of Japan, which controls the less powerful upper house. It describes the bill as being solely for the benefit of Washington. Mr Fukuda yesterday told an upper house panel that the law was needed to fulfil Japan’s obligations in the war on terror.
The DPJ blocked the extension of previous legislation last year, forcing Japanese ships to suspend a six-year mission, helping to bring down the previous Liberal Democratic party administration of Shinzo Abe in the process.
People close to the DPJ suggested that the party was prepared to make a tactical retreat on the issue. It would instead seek to embarrass the LDP during budget deliberations, which are expected to come to a head in March, they said.
Mr Fukuda’s determination to force through the legislation, the first time such powers have been used since 1951, was once seen as politically risky. In theory, the opposition could respond by passing a non-binding censure motion, which in consensus-minded Japan could be enough to force dissolution of parliament. That now appears unlikely.
Jiro Yamaguchi, professor of political science at Hokkaido university, said the prime minister’s willingness to resort to the override procedure stemmed from the opposition’s weakness. “I think Fukuda has realised how fragile the DPJ is,” he said.
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