JAPAN | Energy bill to pass lower house next Friday

Posted on August 13, 2011

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JAPAN | YOMIURI | 13 August 2011

Democratic Party of Japan and Liberal Democratic Party Diet affairs chiefs agreed Friday to pass a renewable energy sources special measures bill through the House of Representatives on Friday next week. The agreement comes amid efforts to realize a new administration within this month.

Diet affairs committee chairmen from the two parties held a meeting Friday morning to make the decision, with the bill expected to pass the Diet and become law on Aug. 26. Prime Minister Naoto Kan will formally announce his resignation soon after the bill clears the Diet, officials from the parties said.

In informal talks after the day’s regular Cabinet meeting, Kan told his Cabinet members about his intention to resign, and encouraged them to continue their duties until the Cabinet resigns, according to government sources. “I hope you do your best in fulfilling your responsibilities until the final moment [of this Cabinet],” Kan was quoted as telling the ministers.

DPJ Secretary General Katsuya Okada and other executives are now making efforts to hold a DPJ presidential election to select Kan’s successor on Aug. 28 and launch a new administration this month.

The three conditions Kan named as prerequisites for his resignation have already been met, or almost met. The second fiscal 2011 supplementary budget has passed the Diet already, while a bill to enable the issuance of deficit-covering bonds cleared the House of Representatives on Thursday.

The latest bill, expected to pass the House of Councillors by Aug. 26, will render all of Kan’s resignation conditions fulfilled within the current Diet session, which ends Aug. 31.

Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda, who has reportedly decided to run for the DPJ presidency, told a press conference after the Cabinet meeting that he will continue with the government’s stance of implementing reforms in the social security and tax systems. Tax hikes are expected to be a contentious issue in the yet-to-be announced DPJ presidential race.

“We have a plan compiled jointly by the government and ruling parties. There should be no arguments to ruin these efforts,” Noda said, apparently attempting to dispel arguments against tax hikes.

Meanwhile, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Michihiko Kano touched on expectations for him to run in the DPJ presidential race. “If there are such expectations [for me to run in the election], I feel very grateful,” Kano told a press conference.

Members of a DPJ group consisting of members of the defunct Democratic Socialist Party decided Friday they will field a candidate in the race.

On Thursday, policy chiefs from the DPJ, LDP and New Komeito agreed to revise the energy bill for submission to the Diet. Revisions to the bill include incorporating a third-party panel to decide purchasing prices of electricity generated from natural energy sources, and the requirement for Diet approval on selection of the panel’s members.

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