The Yomiuri ShimbunHe lacks the capacity to be a lawmaker. Taking into consideration a resolution adopted unanimously by the House of Representatives condemning his actions, lower house member Hodaka Maruyama must decide for himself what course of action he should take.
Maruyama, then a member of Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party), took part in a visa-free group trip last month to Kunashiri Island, one of the northern territories off Hokkaido held by Russia. During the trip, he repeatedly made rash comments while inebriated that were directed at a former island resident who was heading the visiting group, including the remark, “Don’t you think nothing can be done without a war?”
The remark, which seems to imply approval of the use of force to take back the northern territories, cannot be tolerated. It is an extremely inappropriate statement to be made by a member of the Diet participating in the visa-free travel program.
The exchange program is aimed at deepening ties between former islanders and Russians and thus heightening the momentum for realizing the return of the northern territories. Participants must pay close attention to their behavior during such trips to avoid any action that could allow Russia to affirm its sovereignty over the northern territories.
Maruyama reportedly tried to leave his accommodation and got into a scuffle with accompanying government officials who tried to stop him. His selfish behavior is unpardonable.
The resolution denounced his gaffe as “running counter to the pacifism stipulated in the Constitution” and lambasted him, saying, “There is no alternative but to determine that he does not deserve to be a Diet member.” It also urged Maruyama to decide what course of action he should take. It can be said that this is effectively asking him to resign as a lower house lawmaker.
Build trust with Russia
After the adoption of the resolution, which was approved unanimously, Maruyama reiterated his intention not to resign, but he must accept the gravity of the situation.
Many of Maruyama’s responses have been questionable.
While he has apologized and withdrawn his controversial remark, he would not comply with a request from the lower house Committee on Rules and Administration for an explanation and has continued to be absent from Diet sessions, citing poor health. As he has shown no willingness to proactively explain the situation, he cannot escape criticism for such irresponsible behavior.
The negotiations between the ruling and opposition parties took many turns. The Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner Komeito submitted a resolution to reprimand Maruyama, while the opposition parties submitted a resolution recommending his resignation. Ultimately, the ruling and opposition parties agreed to adopt a resolution more restrained than one recommending his resignation.
The Constitution guarantees special status and rights for Diet members, thus recommendations for resignations should not be handled lightly. In the past, the procedure has mainly targeted lawmakers involved in criminal cases.
A Diet resolution is not legally binding. If Maruyama does not follow the resolution, it will erode the dignity of the lower house. Despite such a concern, the ruling and opposition parties decided to adopt the resolution, giving precedence to expressing their determination not to tolerate his remarks and actions.
The Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been holding peace treaty negotiations repeatedly with the administration of Russian President Vladimir Putin with a view to resolving the northern territories issue. Regardless of the Maruyama issue, the government needs to build confidence with the Russian side and proceed with negotiations tenaciously.