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2008年5月 4日 (日)


Constitutional debates shouldn't be put on hold

憲法記念日 論議を休止してはならない(5月3日付・読売社説)

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Is the current political situation really an acceptable state of affairs for the nation? There is no time like the present--when the nation's politics is confused and malfunctioning--for reexamining the nation's fundamental structure through active discussions on the Constitution.


In May last year, the national referendum law, which stipulates procedures for constitutional revision, was enacted. The groundwork for establishing a new constitution has thus been laid.


But the deliberative councils on the Constitution, which were set up under the new law in the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors, have never got down to business.


This is partly because the opposition Democratic Party of Japan has been reluctant to start discussions given the current confrontational situation in the Diet, where the lower house is dominated by the ruling parties and the upper house controlled by the opposition camp.

When a suprapartisan lawmakers league for establishing a new constitution, chaired by former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, held a convention Thursday, some opposition lawmakers, including DPJ Secretary General Yukio Hatoyama, who serves as an adviser to the league, did not attend. This apparently reflects the "divided Diet" situation.


At the convention, the suprapartisan league adopted a resolution calling on the deliberative councils on the Constitution to start discussions as soon as possible, to initiate the process of constitutional revision. Further delays in the councils' activities would be tantamount to dereliction of legislative duties.


The ruling and opposition parties should immediately draw up rules on the councils' operational procedures and start discussions for constitutional revision at an early date.



Top law provides for revote


There are a number of issues facing the councils, including the role of the two-chamber system.


The Constitution contains provisions setting out the legislative process in a divided Diet. Article 59 stipulates that a bill becomes law in a second vote at the lower house when it is approved by a majority of two-thirds or more of members present after the upper house has rejected it following its passage in the lower house or when the upper house fails to take vote on it within 60 days of receiving it from the lower house.


Resorting to this rule, the government and ruling parties passed by a second vote a new Antiterrorism Law enabling the resumption of the Maritime Self-Defense Force's refueling activities in the Indian Ocean and a set of tax code bills reinstating the provisional high gasoline tax rate.

The passage by revote of the new antiterrorism bill, which was rejected by the upper house, and of the tax bills, on which the upper house failed to vote, presents no constitutional problems.




Make it easier to pass bills


A private advisory panel to the upper house president in the past proposed, as part of upper house reform efforts, that a requirement for the lower house's passage of a bill in a second vote be relaxed from a majority of two-thirds or more to a simple majority. When the Liberal Democratic Party was drafting a new constitution, a similar idea also was floated.


Such reform surely will require constitutional revision, and it is unlikely that such a move will take place anytime soon.


The power of the upper house seems to us to be too strong compared with that of the lower house. Isn't it about time that the roles of the two chambers were reviewed? The ruling and opposition parties should have vigorous discussions on issues related to constitutional revision.


The divided Diet has mede it difficult for decisions affecting the nation to be made promptly. If sufficient discussions on the role of the Diet are held, it likely would result in the creation of new rules for the Diet as well.


(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 3, 2008)

2008530145  読売新聞)

(May. 3, 2008)

(May. 3, 2008)


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