Opposition demands extra Diet session over COVID-19 response

Japanese opposition parties called on Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Friday to convene an extraordinary Diet session to examine whether his government has been effective in curbing the spread of COVID-19.
Suga is expected to ignore the request, which came as the capital remains under a state of emergency just one week before the Tokyo Olympics amid a fresh surge of infections and fears over the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus.
Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan leader Yukio Edano and his counterparts in three other opposition parties submitted a formal request to House of Representatives Speaker Tadamori Oshima to hold another Diet session, in line with a constitutional provision.
"In order for the Japanese people to stand together against coronavirus infections, we must convene the Diet, the highest organ of state power, to gather the wisdom of the people," they said.
The opposition parties have been stepping up their criticism of Suga's handling of the pandemic ahead of a general election to be held by the fall.
"The government's explanations of measures against the coronavirus, vaccinations, the Tokyo Olympics -- it has all been utter chaos," Edano told reporters. "There is an increasing need to urge the government to offer explanations, taking sufficient time in parliament."
Under Article 53 of the Constitution, the cabinet must decide to hold an extraordinary Diet session if one is demanded by more than a quarter of the members of either the House of Representatives or the House of Councillors.
The provision does not set a deadline, however, and past administrations have brushed off such requests for months.
The Diet's 150-day regular session ended on June 16 with Suga ignoring opposition calls for a three-month extension.
The opposition parties -- including the Japanese Communist Party, the Democratic Party for the People, and the Social Democratic Party -- said they also want to discuss the responses to disasters caused by heavy rain, following a deadly mudslide in the resort town of Atami earlier this month.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told a press conference the government will consult the ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito on how to proceed with the request.
Komeito Secretary General Keiichi Ishii argued that out-of-session hearings currently taking place in the Diet are sufficient to address the opposition's concerns.

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