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Peter Hadfield in Tokyo
"To organise a boycott is unprecedented in Japan"
 real 28k

Peter Hadfield in Tokyo
"Boycotting the prime minister's speech takes this battle to a higher level"
 real 28k

Friday, 28 January, 2000, 08:15 GMT
Opposition boycotts Obuchi speech

parliament The lower house of the Japanese parliament was unusually empty

Opposition parties in Japan have staged an unprecedented boycott of a major policy speech by the Prime Minister, Keizo Obuchi.

He was faced by rows of empty seats as he addressed parliament on the economy and other issues.

The opposition decided to stay away in protest against government plans to cut the number of seats in the lower house of the Japanese parliament.

This should not happen in a developed country
Hidenori Nakayama, Democratic Party of Japan

At least one opposition party is threatening to boycott all parliamentary sessions, including the debate on the national budget for the next financial year.

Political analysts say tension in the Japanese Diet is now so high that Mr Obuchi may be forced to dissolve parliament and call a general election.

The ruling coalition pushed the long-disputed bill reducing the number of parliamentary seats through the lower house on Thursday.

It is almost certain to be passed by the less powerful upper house, and will reduce the number of lower house seats by 40.

Opposition parties say it will reduce their representation in Parliament even further.

Japanese PM Keizo Obuchi. Obuchi: Commitment to nurture the individual

They are angry the changes were rushed through without discussion.

"This is proof that the ruling party doesn't listen to the opinions of the minority," said Hidenori Nakayama, from the Democratic Party of Japan.

"This should not happen in a developed country."

Economic commitment

In his speech, Mr Obuchi said he was determined to do whatever was necessary to further Japan's economic recovery.

But he rejected recent opposition and some ruling coalition calls to tackle the huge national debt.

The Japan of tomorrow must be a society that will not let individuals become obscure in organisations and groups
Keizo Obuchi, Prime minister of Japan

"Financial restructuring may be important, but we should not make the mistake of proceeding with it before getting the economy back on the recovery path," he said.

Mr Obuchi also said he would put special emphasis on education and science, as these areas held the key for Japan's development in the 21st century.

Developing the individual

"A major goal in the field of education is to nurture creative people," he said. "I promise to tackle education reform as my cabinet's most important task."

"The Japan of tomorrow must be a society that will not let individuals become obscure in organisations and groups, but one where individuals will shine and brim with power," he added.

Obuchi also said he planned to further the recently resumed dialogue with North Korea.

"I hope to proceed further with the budding dialogue, and discuss the normalisation of diplomatic ties as well as humanitarian and security issues," he said.

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See also:
22 Jul 99 |  The Economy
Asian hopes for Japanese recovery
23 Sep 98 |  The Economy
Japan offers lifeline to South East Asia

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