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2013年5月11日 (土)

憲法96条改正 発議要件緩和の論議深めたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun May 11, 2013
Discussions must be deepened over easing top law revision requirements
憲法96条改正 発議要件緩和の論議深めたい(5月10日付・読売社説)

Debates between the ruling and opposition camps are taking place over Article 96 of the Constitution, which outlines procedures for revising the supreme law.

We hope on this occasion to see widespread public understanding of the necessity of constitutional changes and various tasks relevant to them.

The House of Representatives Commission on the Constitution held discussions on Article 96 for the first time on Thursday.

Regarding the revision of the Constitution, Article 96 stipulates the Diet can propose amendments to the basic law only when both the lower house and the House of Councillors approve proposed revisions by a two-thirds majority. Furthermore, the initiative must then garner a majority vote in a national referendum. The biggest issue is whether to ease these strict requirements for the legislature's ability to propose constitutional changes.

JCP argument irrelevant

The Liberal Democratic Party has pointed out that while such countries as the United States and Germany have similar requirements to make constitutional changes, those that require approval in a national referendum for amending constitutions are very few, including South Korea and Spain.

The LDP also notes that the Diet cannot initiate amendments to the Constitution as long as one-third or more of the members of one of the two chambers are opposed to the amendments, which the LDP stresses means that the will of the people cannot be reflected in the Constitution. The ruling party has been demanding that the two-thirds requirement be changed to a simple majority of the members of both houses.

Japan's Constitution is extremely hard to revise due to the rigorousness of requirements for revision.

The fact that the Constitution has never been changed since its enactment attests to this.

We support the idea of easing the requirements for constitutional revisions as changes are necessary for the country to be able to cope adequately with fast-changing domestic and international situations.

The Japanese Communist Party has brought up constitutionalism on the basis that a constitution is meant to rein in the powers of the state and guarantee the rights of the people.
Based on this stance, the JCP in the lower house commission on possible constitutional changes opposed the revision of Article 96, arguing, "Those in power must never be allowed to reduce the requirements for initiating constitutional amendments to the same level being applied to laws in general."

The JCP has also insisted that the LDP-proposed procedural changes for constitutional amendments are "obviously aimed at revising Article 9" of the Constitution.

An argument saying that curbs on excesses in government power would be jeopardized simply by lowering hurdles for constitutional amendment requirements should be considered a wild leap of logic.

A final decision on the matter will, as a matter of course, remain in the hands of the people, and the JCP's assertion that the planned change of Article 96 would bring the status of the Constitution down to the level of ordinary laws cannot be considered appropriate.

Raising the theory of constitutionalism in this context is wide of the mark.

More national debate needed

Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and Your Party are in line with the LDP on the idea of changing Article 96. When it comes to specifics of amendments, however, there are wide gaps between the LDP and the two opposition parties. The two parties have made changing the article contingent on such matters as converting the Diet into a single-chamber legislature and the introduction of a "doshu-sei" government system of wider regional blocs.

The major opposition Democratic Party of Japan and the LDP's junior coalition partner New Komeito admit there are some within the parties who back a revision of Article 96. However, they said that the parties must be "cautious about letting arguments over constitutional change procedures precede discussions about substantial and specific amendments to the Constitution."

As pointed out by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, discussions about revising Article 96 can hardly be said to be deepening among the public.

It is also undeniable that uncertainties remain regarding what specific amendments to the Constitution would be pursued after easing revision requirements.

The LDP has already produced a draft for revising the Constitution.

The party should provide detailed explanations about the content and processes of its envisioned constitutional changes, while making redoubled efforts to reach agreement with other parties on the matter.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 10, 2013)
(2013年5月10日01時39分  読売新聞)


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