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Japan Moves Toward Coalition Gov’t.

January 11, 1999

TOKYO (AP) _ Inching closer to forming a coalition government, Japan’s ruling party on Monday accepted an opposition demand to stop unelected bureaucrats from speaking on behalf of Cabinet ministers.

The deal between the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the opposition Liberal Party will allow ministry bureaucrats to speak in Parliament only when specifically requested to do so, Liberal Party official Takeji Kono said.

Japanese politicians often read from documents prepared by bureaucrats, whose technical expertise usually exceeds that of the politicians. Bureaucrats also routinely answer questions during parliamentary debates.

But many Japanese are increasingly wary of the bureaucrats’ domination of policy-making because they are not elected and don’t appear to answer to public opinion. Bureaucrats are not required to step down even after changes of government in Japan.

The agreement will take effect in the second session of Parliament later this year.

Bureaucratic reform is just one of the issues up for debate in the ruling party’s effort to form a coalition government.

The Liberal Democrats lack a majority in the upper house of Parliament, which they need to pass measures aimed at stimulating Japan’s stagnant economy.

However, talks between the parties have snagged over defense policy. The Liberals are pushing the Liberal Democrats to accept a new interpretation of the constitution that would increase Japan’s participation in U.N. military missions.

Liberal Democrats are eager to form a coalition government before the first parliamentary session of the year begins Jan. 19.

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