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2013年3月 5日 (火)

憲法96条 改正要件緩和が政治を変える

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Mar. 5, 2013)
Relax requirements for constitutional revision
憲法96条 改正要件緩和が政治を変える(3月4日付・読売社説)

Revision of Article 96 of the Constitution, which stipulates procedures to amend the national charter, has emerged as a major item on the political agenda.

This is apparent after the Liberal Democratic Party, Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and Your Party, which all called for revision of the article in their campaign platforms for the House of Representatives election in December, together have acquired more than two-thirds of the chamber's 480 seats.

Depending on the outcome of the House of Councillors election in July, legislative arrangements for revising the Constitution will get under way for the first time.

Therefore, constitutional revision is now on the political agenda and has a chance of being realized.

Article 96 calls for revision to be initiated by the Diet through an affirmative vote of two-thirds or more of all members of each house, followed by a national referendum in which support from a majority of the public must be secured.


Hard to clear dual hurdle

It will not be easy to clear the high dual hurdle of winning affirmative votes of two-thirds or more in each chamber and securing majority support from the public in a referendum.

If the threshold of two-thirds is revised to a majority as proposed by the LDP, it will be easier to initiate amendments.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the government will seek revision of Article 96, which is supported by many parties, ahead of other articles over which parties are divided. This is a realistic and appropriate approach.

His view is shared by some conservative members of the Democratic Party of Japan who reportedly plan to form a new parliamentary league with lawmakers of Ishin no Kai and Your Party to revise Article 96.

The controversy over constitutional revision, which puts politicians' views of the nature of the state to the test, is significant in that it could lead to a political realignment.

The DPJ has not yet decided on its position on the issue due to differences of opinion within the party.

Even its party platform makes little reference to the issue, saying only that the party "envisages a future-oriented constitution to establish constitutionalism in the true sense of the word." This statement does not give the people much idea about how the party will tackle constitutional revision.

The DPJ must hold in-depth discussions on the matter ahead of the upper house election as the issue has the potential of becoming a bone of contention.


Unrealistic situation

A constitution does not have to remain unchanged forever. In the past 13 years alone, Switzerland amended its Constitution 23 times, while Germany revised its top law 11 times and France 10 times.

However, since it was enforced in 1947, the Constitution of Japan has never been revised, an extremely rare case.

With the changing times, the gap between the Constitution and reality has become diverse and distinct. Many lawmakers believe the Constitution should be revised in relation to protection of environmental rights and privacy, let alone national security, but nothing has been done.

It is natural for Ishin no Kai coleader Toru Hashimoto to assert that "it's important to discuss the content [of the Constitution], but is it satisfactory to leave intact a situation in which we cannot even seek the people's judgment on revision proposals?"

Now is the time to relax Article 96's requirements that has made it so difficult to revise the Constitution.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 4, 2013)
(2013年3月4日01時50分  読売新聞)


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