Opposition party sets sights on expense allowances

Japan Times -- Dec 04
One of the big winners of the Oct. 31 Lower House election was the Osaka-based Nippon Ishin no Kai, which tripled the number of seats it occupies in parliament, thus making it the second biggest opposition force after the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.

In interviews following the poll, Nippon Ishin leader Ichiro Matsui, who is also the mayor of Osaka, said the party would stand up to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which is notable because many had thought it might join the ruling coalition owing to its similar political philosophy. In the past, Nippon Ishin candidates have received support from the LDP.

Nippon Ishin’s power is concentrated in Osaka, and its goal is to be a true national party, which means it needs to distinguish itself in order to be just that. One of its primary means of doing so is fiscal reform, which it has carried out at a local level. The main setback in that regard has been the party’s failure to turn Osaka city and prefecture into a unified metropolis like Tokyo, which it says would save money by eliminating redundant public functions.

Nippon Ishin wants to expand its cost-cutting mission to the central government, and its immediate target is buntsūhi, or the “correspondence allowance” that every lawmaker receives to help pay for things such as postage and transportation. The existing allowance totals ¥1 million per month, regardless of how many days the recipient works.

One of the new Nippon Ishin lawmakers, Taisuke Ono, wrote on Nov. 12 that he was puzzled by the allowance. Having been elected on Oct. 31, he was a member of parliament for only one day in October, and thus received a salary equivalent to one day’s worth of work. However, he also received the full ¥1 million correspondence allowance. The LDP has said it would work to have the money returned.