Opposition-dominant upper house passes censure motion against Abe

The House of Councillors passed a censure motion against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday as the opposition-controlled upper chamber of parliament accused him of having skipped some Diet sessions.

The nonbinding motion, filed by a few small opposition parties, came after Abe and his Cabinet ministers refused to attend the house's Budget Committee sessions Monday and Tuesday in protest against the handling of the chamber by its president, Kenji Hirata.

The move came as a sting for Abe's administration ahead of an upper house election next month. The ruling coalition led by his Liberal Democratic Party maintains dominance in the powerful House of Representatives.

The smaller parties' efforts to censure Abe gained momentum after the biggest opposition Democratic Party of Japan endorsed the motion in an apparent U-turn.

The DPJ had earlier showed reluctance to join the move, citing the need to spend time deliberating bills that remain to be voted on on the final day of the 150-day ordinary Diet session, including a bill that would allow the government to initiate a series of crucial reforms to Japan's power industry.

With parties focusing on the censure, it became unclear whether parliament would be able to enact those bills.