Diet speaker talks politics and 2019

In recent years, there have been increasing warnings from political experts of a global democratic crisis. Around the world, legislative bodies have ground to halt with lawmakers unable to reach consensuses. The US is currently in the middle of a federal government shutdown as lawmakers have failed to approve a budget. And in the UK, parliament has yet to agree on a way to leave the European Union. According to Tadamori Oshima, Japanese lawmakers are experiencing their own division.

Oshima is the speaker of Japan's House of Representatives. He is responsible for guiding debate on controversial national issues, such as the succession of the Emperor. He spoke to NHK about the upcoming abdication and the increasing role domestic lawmakers play in diplomacy.

Conclusion of a difficult issue

Tadamori Oshima has been the lower house speaker for nearly 4 years. He is a longtime member of the Liberal Democratic Party, the main ruling party, but his current role requires him to be independent. His job is to facilitate fair discussion between the ruling and opposition camps.

In 2017, he was instrumental in forging an agreement between the two sides on a historic legal measure allowing the abdication of Emperor Akihito. 2019 will mark the first time an emperor has stepped down since Emperor Kokaku in 1817.

"I want to show my deep respect and appreciation for Emperor Akihito, who has remained close to the people. And I want to offer my congratulations to the new emperor. We pray for him as he takes on the role of state symbol."

Oshima says even after a smooth succession, the issue of the Imperial Family's shrinking size remains. Together with the speaker of the upper house, he released a report urging the government to consider allowing women to remain in the family after marriage. They currently become commoners.

"Politicians must come up with a way to maintain the imperial lineage. This is an issue we must deal with."

Democracy in the current era

Recently, a series of cronyism scandals implicating the administration of Prime Minister Abe has been a source of division in the Diet. Last summer, Oshima publically called on lawmakers to get to the root of the scandals, and urged them to be more transparent.

"The Diet is associated with political power struggles. Instead, we need to make more of an effort to come together on difficult issues of national importance. We should seek to build a democracy that is able to reach meaningful agreements."

Oshima has met with about 100 speakers from other countries. He says many of them are concerned about democracy, in particular the relationship between government and parliament. He believes politics around the world is marred by division.

"Looking at the political situation around the world last year, I think of words like fragmentation, confrontation and breakdown. Democracy requires us to be tolerant of things that are different, but I think lots of countries have grown tired of this. I believe right now, we, particularly lawmakers in countries where democracy is well-developed, need to work on consensus-building."

The role of lawmakers in diplomacy

Oshima says communication between lawmakers of different countries has been crucial to diplomacy. He cites the relationships Japan has with South Korea and China as examples.

"Diplomacy is negotiation between governments. I feel the role of domestic lawmakers is becoming more important to this. Lawmakers can create a suitable environment for diplomacy. For example, in Japan there are many long-standing issues with South Korea and China, including historical matters. But parliamentary associations have created good relationships between lawmakers and this has led to improved ties. It is the duty of lawmakers to create a favorable environment for diplomacy."

In recent years, Oshima has watched as several of his fellow legislative body leaders around the world have struggled to forge compromise in domestic debates. He thinks this is indicative of the current climate of division. But he believes Japan can help improve this situation by sending out a message that promotes peace and tolerance.