Japan PM Abe survives months-long opposition offensive in parliament

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government on Friday survived months of offensive in parliament from opposition lawmakers over a series of scandals, succeeding in pushing through bills deemed important by his ruling party. On the de facto final day of the Diet session, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and five other opposition parties submitted a no-confidence motion against Abe's Cabinet, in a show of protest against what they see as his high-handed politics. But the motion was rejected before the lower house, controlled by the Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner Komeito party, passes a contentious bill that authorizes the opening of casino gambling in Japan. After the Diet session formally ends on Sunday, Abe is expected to devote his energy to winning the LDP's presidential election in September, which will set the stage for him to serve another three-year term and become Japan's longest-serving prime minister. Abe was initially expected to announce his plan to run in the LDP leadership race, when the Diet session ends. But he decided to postpone the announcement to focus on dealing with devastating torrential rains in western Japan which claimed more than 220 lives. Former LDP Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba, the party's policy chief Fumio Kishida and internal affairs minister Seiko Noda are also considered possible candidates. But so far they have not had enough support from LDP members to beat Abe. Shortly after the ordinary Diet session began Jan. 22, opposition lawmakers resumed grilling Abe over favoritism allegations related to a pair of school building projects carried out by people with ties to him or his wife Akie. Opposition lawmakers and a majority of the public found that Abe's explanations over the allegations in the Diet were inadequate, and his Cabinet struggled with lower approval ratings at one point. The government also came under pressure in the wake of the Finance Ministry's falsification of official documents and sexual harassment against a TV reporter by a top bureaucrat of the ministry. Despite risks of facing additional questions over the scandals, for the purpose of passing major government-sponsored bills, including one aimed at reforming working styles, the government extended the 150-day Diet period, which was originally scheduled to end June 20. While a solid majority held by the ruling parties in the two Diet chambers made it possible for the government to pass the bills despite attempts by opposition parties to stop them, the Cabinet's approval ratings have somewhat picked up in recent months, staying above 40 percent. On June 29, the labor reform bill was adopted, which consists of three key pillars -- setting a legal cap on overtime work, realizing "equal pay for equal work" for regular and nonregular workers and exempting skilled professional workers with high wages from working-hour regulations. Opposition lawmakers criticized the third pillar as encouraging long working hours and leading possibly to an increase in "karoshi," or death from overwork. On Wednesday, the Diet passed a bill to increase the number of upper chamber seats for the first time in nearly five decades. The increase is widely seen as an LDP attempt to "bail out" its lawmakers who will not be able to run in the election next summer from their constituencies as a result of an electoral system reform.

12 hours ago | KYODO NEWS

Olympics: Organizers release summary of Tokyo 2020 ticket prices

Spectators at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games will pay up to 300,000 yen ($2,670) to attend the opening ceremony or as little as 2,500 yen to see individual matches in sports such as soccer, organizers revealed Friday. Tickets priced at 4,000 yen or less will be available for most competitions, while more than half will be offered for under 8,000 yen, the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games said in its summary of ticket prices. Tickets for the opening ceremony will start at 12,000 yen. The top-priced tickets for athletics will cost 130,000 yen, while the maximum for swimming and basketball will be 100,000 yen. Discounted group tickets aimed at children, the elderly and families of people with disabilities will be priced at 2,020 yen apiece. More than 1 million tickets will also be offered for sale in collaboration with schools and local government units. Entry prices for events in which Japanese athletes are expected to excel, such as judo, wrestling and table tennis, are likely to be higher than at previous Olympics, the organizing committee said. Premium ticket packages targeting wealthy customers and including food and beverage services are expected to be offered at a later date. Tickets will go on sale next spring via the official website. In order to purchase, it is necessary to first register a "Tokyo 2020 ID." Roughly 50,000 people have already registered. The website URL is https://id.tokyo2020.jp/

12 hours ago | KYODO NEWS