Constitution Day Shows Fragmenting Opinions Among Japanese
Differing platforms of political parties in Japan
on constitution revision
As the nation marked the 67th anniversary of the enforcement of the Constitution on Saturday, the certainty that a bill revising the National Referendum Law will be passed in the current Diet session makes it likely that constitutional amendment will occur.
The National Referendum Law sets procedures for constitutional revisions.
In a statement released Saturday—Constitution Day—the Liberal Democratic Party said: “We have entered the stage of discussing how to amend [the Constitution], not whether the Constitution should be revised or kept unchanged. We will push for constitutional amendments and legal arrangements in the face of rising tensions in international circumstances.”
Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) also released a statement signed by its acting leader Takeo Hiranuma, vowing to lead Diet discussions on the matter.
Other parties also released statements regarding the Constitution on the same day. Eight out of 10 leading and opposition parties have agreed to drive forward discussions to revise the Constitution, while the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party oppose such revisions. A focal point is now expected to be what provisions would be amended.
Hajime Funada, head of the LDP’s body promoting revisions to the Constitution, said during a Thursday meeting of a nonpartisan group of lawmakers that aims to establish a new constitution, “Under the eight-party agreement, I want to draw up a first-draft constitution with support from as many parties as possible.”
The eight parties, including the LDP and its ruling coalition partner New Komeito along with the main opposition party, the Democratic Party of Japan, reached an agreement to revise the National Referendum Law during the current Diet session.
Funada’s remarks indicated that he intends to win backing from many parties for the initiative to amend the Constitution as well.
However, the eight parties do not necessarily share identical stands. They are split over the specifics of constitutional amendment.
In April 2012, the LDP unveiled a draft constitutional amendment plan that seeks to review all provisions. The plan calls for the Constitution to refer to the nation’s right to self defense in Article 9, as well as to add new provisions for establishing a national defense force and responding to an armed attack. However, Komeito is cautious about drastic revisions to Article 9, and instead favors the addition of new principles and provisions without changing the existing content of the Constitution. It proposes adding new human rights, such as an environmental right, and expanding the authority of local governments.
Parties Ishin no Kai, Your Party and Yui no To intend to push for the decentralization of power by introducing a so-called doshu system for reorganizing prefectures into larger regional government units through constitutional revisions, for example. The three parties have also called for a one-chamber Diet system, but some LDP members strongly oppose the idea.
Any constitutional amendments must be proposed by the Diet and then approved by a majority vote in a national referendum.
“If the initiative is rejected in the first national referendum, it would be difficult to bring it to a second national referendum,” a senior LDP member said.
In light of this, observers say the parties are likely to accelerate discussions on provisions regarding new human rights and emergency responses, on which they would find it easier to agree. The parties are also expected to have heated discussions on the easing of procedures for constitutional revisions, which has been proposed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.