August 14th 2019
TOKYO – –The ruling and opposition parties in the Diet, Japan’s parliament, are rushing to establish measures aimed at accommodating two newly elected lawmakers with severe disabilities ahead of the autumn extraordinary session, when full-fledged deliberations are set to begin.
The Diet Building was renovated to allow the two House of Councillors members elected in the July 21 election–Yasuhiko Funago and Eiko Kimura of the new political party Reiwa Shinsengumi–to attend plenary meetings in time for an extraordinary session this month, the first session since the election. However, challenges remain over issues such as how the lawmakers can conduct debates in plenary and committee meetings.
For example, Funago, who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, cannot speak and communicates instead by having an assistant track his eye movements along a “communication board” that displays letters.
While some questions can be prepared ahead of time, the back-and-forth nature of committee debates presents a challenge to the lawmaker, who needs time to express himself with the message board and cannot make rapid-fire responses.
The problem is made worse by the fact that Reiwa Shinsengumi is a minor party, meaning that the time allocated for questions is limited.