Abe to shelve bill extending prosecutors’ retirement age

TOKYO — The ruling party of Japan decided on Monday to shelve a proposed amendment to extend the retirement age of top prosecutors in the face of mounting public opposition.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe talked with leading party figures and agreed not to proceed the bill during the current session of the diet.

“We have been unable to remove doubt that the cabinet would misuse the system in an arbitrary manner,” a key member of the Liberal Democratic Party said on Monday.

The amendment, which has been discussed as a single bill that includes increasing the retirement age of national civil service workers to 65, calls for raising the retirement age of prosecutors to 65 from 63.

It also would allow top prosecutors to remain on the job until 66 upon Cabinet approval.

Opposition parties fear the amendment would affect the impartiality of the Public Prosecutors Office. Hiromu Kurokawa, head of the Tokyo High Public Prosecutors Office and regarded as an Abe ally, was expected to be promoted as leader of the Supreme Public Prosecutor’s Office if the amendment passed.

The LDP member also said the amendment, if rammed through over protests, “could adversely affect” deliberations on the second supplementary budget, which includes further economic measures to fight the coronavirus outbreak.

“We can take more time if needed,” said a senior government official. “It’s not a bill that needs to be passed at all costs.”

Meanwhile, the ruling party will deny on Tuesday a May 15 proposal of a no-confidence vote against Ryota Takeda, the minister in charge of civil service reform, who handled government response to the proposed amendment.

The LDP had aimed for a Wednesday vote on the amendment at a Cabinet committee before expecting the House of Representatives to pass it later in the week.

Opposition parties — including the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan — have highlighted the dangers of the amendment, claiming it would give the cabinet control over personnel at the Public Prosecutors Office.

They are, however, in favor of extending the retirement age of public servants, but say the two issues should be decided separately.

Former Attorney General Kunihiro Matsuo filed a letter to Justice Minister Masako Mori on May 15, expressing opposition to the amendment concerning prosecutors.

“The legal amendment politicizes personnel management of prosecutors, and is intended to weaken their power” the letter said.

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