Japan parliament battles over new powers for military

Japan’s ruling party pushes contentious security bills through a legislative committee Thursday, catching the opposition by surprise and causing chaos in the chamber.

Opposition lawmakers surge toward the chairman’s seat as they realize something was up after ruling party legislators had gathered at the podium to protect him.

As the scrum intensifies, ruling party lawmakers still in their seats stand up to signal their support for the legislation, though there doesn’t appear to be an audible announcement of what they are voting on.

The legislative standoff is the latest development in a years-long national debate about the way Japan uses its military, a central question for the country since its armed forces were defeated in World War II seven decades ago. The bills would ease restrictions and allow the military to defend Japan’s allies even when the country isn’t under attack, work more closely with the US and other allies, and do more in international peacekeeping.

A senior opposition member later says his party would not accept the vote because the ruling bloc had cheated.

“You saw the scene. We do not recognize there was a vote. How can you tell what happened, what the chairman was calling?” says Tetsuro Fukuyama, committee leader for the Democratic Party of Japan.

If the vote stands, the legislation will go to the upper house of parliament for final approval. The bills were passed by the more powerful lower house in July.

“Although it was unfortunate that the bills had to be approved this way, they are absolutely needed in order to protect the lives and happiness of the people,” Masahisa Sato, a member of the committee for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, tells public broadcaster NHK shortly after the vote.

— AP

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