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2012年5月 5日 (土)

憲法記念日 改正論議で国家観が問われる

The Yomiuri Shimbun (May. 4, 2012)
Vision of the state questioned in top law revision debate
憲法記念日 改正論議で国家観が問われる(5月3日付・読売社説)


Japan is currently facing many pending issues at home and abroad, such as reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake, resolving the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant and dealing with China, which is expanding its economic and military power.

Since what the state should be is being questioned, we should go back to basics. The ruling and opposition parties should pursue the ideal form this country should take by deepening their discussions on constitutional revisions.


Ahead of last Saturday, April 28, the 60th anniversary of the San Francisco Peace Treaty coming into force, the Liberal Democratic Party released the second draft of its proposed revisions to the Constitution.

LDP President Sadakazu Tanigaki stressed the necessity of constitutional revisions, a fundamental issue that led to the party's formation, saying it is something "we should've tackled when Japan regained sovereignty."

It is a well-known fact that the Constitution was based on a draft drawn up by the General Headquarters of the Allied Powers. We commend the LDP for again proposing national debate on revisions to the top law by reviewing its first draft of revisions, written in 2005.


Emergencies provision sought

The LDP's new draft also established a provision to deal with emergencies, based on lessons from the Great East Japan Earthquake. Under the latest draft, the prime minister would be able to declare a state of emergency in the event of armed attacks on the country, a civil war and large-scale disasters.

The revisions would enable the prime minister to issue orders to the heads of local governments based on the declaration.

To protect people's lives and property, fundamental human rights--including the freedom to choose and change one's residence, and property rights--could be temporarily restricted within the minimum scope necessary. For this reason, some people object to the provision concerning emergencies.

However, it is much more dangerous for the government to take supralegal measures that it claims are necessary in an emergency, with no provision for such steps stipulated in the Constitution. This is why almost all countries, including Germany and France, have a provision concerning emergencies in their constitutions.

It is the government's responsibility to prepare for emergencies in times of calm.

Previous damage estimates are being reviewed for earthquakes, including a possible inland earthquake that could directly hit Tokyo, in which the capital's functions could be paralyzed, and a massive earthquake along the Nankai Trough caused by simultaneous Tokai, Tonankai and Nankai earthquakes.

Also, the possibility that nuclear power plants in the nation may be targeted by terrorists cannot be denied.

Existing laws, including the Disaster Countermeasures Basic Law, are inadequate to fully cope with situations in which the state's functions are hindered.

Another important point for debate will be dealing with a possible emergency at a time when the House of Representatives has been dissolved or when its lawmakers' terms are about to expire.

Parallel to discussions on constitutional revisions, the government also should consider establishing new legislation such as a basic contingency law.


Self-defense issues

On national security, the LDP's new draft maintained the current Constitution's policy of denouncing war, which is stipulated in Article 9, but added a clause saying this does not preclude the nation from "invoking the right to self-defense."

The draft authorized the nation to possess the Self-Defense Forces under the name of "national defense forces." The draft also clarified that Japan is entitled to exercise the right to collective self-defense, which has been officially denied by past administrations.

The LDP's draft also added a clause stipulating that the government must cooperate with citizens to maintain the nation's territorial integrity and secure its resources.

We believe the LDP's judgments on the draft over national security are all appropriate.

The security environment surrounding Japan has increasingly become severe, due to factors including China's advancement into adjacent seas and North Korea's nuclear development program. In this situation, it is necessary for Japan to be able to exercise the right to collective self-defense for the Japan-U.S. alliance to function smoothly.

On the other hand, we have doubts about the LDP's decision to refrain in the new draft from reviewing the status of the House of Councillors, which holds a disproportionately strong power.

In the divided Diet--in which opposition parties hold a majority in the upper house--bills not supported by the opposition parties will not pass. In addition, the upper house's censure motions now virtually decide the fate of cabinet ministers. This destructive practice is causing turmoil in the Diet.

Your Party has proposed a plan to introduce a single-chamber system by integrating the two houses, and a suprapartisan group of lawmakers has prepared a constitutional reform proposal aimed at introducing a single-chamber system. We believe the party and the group are both aware that one reason the Diet is not functioning sufficiently is the upper house's disproportionately strong power.

However, it is difficult to achieve a single-chamber system by revising the Constitution. It would be more realistic to figure out the appropriate division of the roles of the two houses under the current bicameral system.

The LDP, Your Party and the Sunrise Party of Japan have all expressed their views on an ideal Constitution. However, the Democratic Party of Japan, which holds the reins of government, has been reluctant to join discussions over amending the Constitution. It is inexcusable for the ruling party to shun an issue concerning the foundation of the nation.


Tackle vote disparity now

In autumn, the Deliberative Councils on the Constitution in both houses--which had been dormant for more than four years--finally began creaking into action.

The lower house Research Commission on the Constitution has already clarified the main points regarding the amendment of the Constitution at meetings held from 2000 to 2005. The deliberative councils should begin concrete discussions on revising the Constitution soon. We hope the councils understand there is no time to waste.

One serious problem regarding the Constitution is the lawsuits over the disparity in the weight of votes. In recent years, an increasing number of court rulings concluded that the disparity in the weight of votes in both lower and upper house elections are "unconstitutional" or in an "unconstitutional state," which means it could be unconstitutional if the situation is not changed within a certain period. However, discussions on reforming the electoral system have made no substantial progress.

Diet members should be ashamed of greeting the Constitution Day after leaving the matter for so long despite knowing the disparity problem has come so close to being unconstitutional. This irresponsible attitude is unforgivable in the nation's legislative body.

It is especially urgent for the lower house, many members of which are whispering about the possibility of a snap general election, to review the electoral system.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 3, 2012)
(2012年5月3日02時31分  読売新聞)


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