(YAMAMOTO Yoichi, PPPC Visiting Researcher)
Many people should be sick of scandals by local assemblyman. There are many reports on deplorable affairs of local assemblyman every single day such as slurs, emotional outburst, use of quasi-legal narcotic, and others. Although being indifferent myself, the author found an astonishing news.
An article of Chunichi Shimbun on July 24 titled “improper remark, spearhead turns to accuser assemblyman” is a subsequent report of the news saying that a city councilor of Shinshiro city, Aichi prefecture, stated “(why not) distribute punched condoms?” in the hall. The news reported that the assembly held a meeting on July 23 to discuss measures.
Normally, we would expect it ends with an apology of the councilor concerned; however, Shinshiro city did not. The assembly regarded another councilor who criticized the gaffe in his blog as the main culprit, and drafted a new rule to restrict assemblyman’s information releases.
The concerned gaffe is stated by a nonpartisan assemblyman Tomonaga Osada in June as a proposition “how about distributing punched condoms to couples who submitted registration of marriage (as countermeasure to aging)?” Although it didn’t attract much attention in the beginning, it was made public by a blog post by Yohei Asao, Japan Communist Party, on July 14 which was followed by media reports taking the gaffe as part of scandals by local assemblyman. Even though it was a public remark in the official meeting of assembly, citizens wouldn’t have noticed only if Asao did not mention it in his blog.
Nonetheless, in the meeting on July 23, certain assemblyman voiced doubts on “releasing personal view before stating it in the assembly” and “certain considerations should have been given, e.g., noticing the other side, if releasing it with individual names.” Other members followed, and agreed to establish new rules on releasing opinions in the twitter or blog.
However, what’s wrong with an assemblyman, not mayor, who releases personal opinions? It is an important duty of the assemblyman to reflect voices of the residents on questions and to release personal views in front of the assembly. Also it is a strange idea to notice in advance the elected, subject assemblyman. If such an idea is reasonable, any party headquarters or Cabinet Office would be chaotically busy.
In the first place, the concerned remark does deserve criticisms. If Osada really thinks it is an effective idea to distribute punched condoms as countermeasure to depopulating society, obviously he is not as talented as being an elected official. Perhaps he might have said it as a light joke in the official session of the assembly, but it would also mean he lacks seriousness and manner as an assemblyman.
The assembly must face the issue seriously, if not resignation by Osada, instead of sidestepping the criticisms and accusing the councilor who revealed the gaffe. Further, it must not move against the stream of seeking transparency of the assembly.
According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, the number of local assembly members in the country amounts to up to 34,476. There will likely be increasing voices as “we don’t need that many.” The local assemblies face the challenge of reducing the seats drastically, or proving their own significance of being by truly working for the sake of citizens.