October 4th 2019
An extraordinary session of the Diet commenced on Friday, setting the stage for full-fledged debates between the ruling and opposition camps following last month’s Cabinet reshuffle conducted after the July election for the House of Councillors.
An opening ceremony, attended by the Emperor, was held at the upper house chamber in the early afternoon. “I sincerely hope that the Diet will answer to citizens by fulfilling its role as the highest organ of state power in handling various domestic and international issues,” the Emperor said in a speech.
Prime Minister Abe, in a policy speech on Friday, called for the start of discussions on proposed constitutional amendments in the Diet, while expressing his eagerness to create a social security system benefiting all generations.
The prime minister’s first policy speech since the new era of Reiwa began on May 1 was made at plenary meetings of both chambers of the Diet during an extraordinary session convened the same day to run for 67 days through Dec. 9.
In the speech, he said the government will work on “new nation-building of the era of Reiwa” and regard the Constitution as a “guidepost” for such efforts.
“I think the Commission on the Constitution [of each Diet chamber] is where the ideals Japan will strive to achieve as a country should be discussed,” Abe said. “Let us, the Diet members, have good discussions and fulfill our responsibility for the people.”
He also highlighted the government’s efforts to realize a society in which all people, including women, young and elderly people, and people with disabilities, can play active roles.
“We’ll reduce the burdens on families with children,” Abe said, referring to related government programs, including the one making preschool education and nursery services free of charge that started on Tuesday.
The prime minister said the government, in responding to an aging population, will create an environment in which people can continue working until 70, adding, “We’ll set a bold vision of a social security system that would allow people of all ages, from children to the elderly, feel secure.”
In discussing the importance of building a diverse society, Abe quoted a remark by Yasuhiko Funago, a severely disabled lawmaker of new opposition party Reiwa Shinsengumi, that “humans can enjoy their lives no matter how their appearances change.”
The prime minister, who has had personal ties with Funago, an amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) patient since 2003, talked about how the newly elected member of the House of Councillors played active roles in the management of a nursing care business and congratulated him on joining the Diet.
It is rare for a policy speech by a prime minister to refer to an opposition lawmaker.