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2013年7月15日 (月)

13参院選 憲法改正 新たな国家像の議論を深めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 15, 2013
Deepen debate on Constitution to build consensus on revision
13参院選 憲法改正 新たな国家像の議論を深めよ(7月14日付・読売社説)


The supreme law provides the framework of this country, but what form should it take?

Revision of the Constitution is a major issue in the campaign for the July 21 House of Councillors election. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party, Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and Your Party support revising the Constitution, and New Komeito is considering it.

Depending on results of the upper house election, political conditions allowing the Diet to propose constitutional revisions could be created for the first time since the end of World War II.

Dealing with Article 96

One bone of contention in the election campaign centers on Article 96 of the Constitution, which stipulates procedures to revise the supreme law.

The article says a constitutional revision will be put to a national referendum after the Diet proposes it with a concurring vote of two-thirds or more of all members in each chamber. This requirement is said to be much stricter than that of other countries.

The LDP advocates that the requirement for the initiative should be lowered to a simple majority so the public can more easily have “an opportunity to participate in a constitutional judgment” through a national referendum.

Ishin no Kai says that Article 96 should be revised first, and Your Party agrees with relaxation of the requirement. The main opposition Democratic Party of Japan and Komeito oppose amending this article first, but they do not disagree with the revision itself.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has taken a flexible stance in consideration of the position of Komeito, the LDP’s coalition partner, suggesting that articles on basic human rights, pacifism and sovereignty of the people would not be subject to the relaxed requirement for revision.

The LDP needs to coordinate its opinions with the other parties to realize revision of the Constitution. The ruling party should take a pragmatic approach through consensus-building with other parties even if it has to revise its own draft.

The Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party oppose amending the Constitution, including Article 96, based on “constitutionalism,” the idea that harnessing power of the state and protecting the people are the essence of a constitution.

Abe has hit back at this interpretation of constitutionalism and said it is to rein in an autocratic government. The prime minister pointed out that a constitution will not only harness state power but also show what form a state should be.

Of course, a constitution can restrict state power but it also provides the philosophy and role of a state.

Even if the Diet’s requirement for a constitutional revision is relaxed, there will be no change in the need for a national referendum to revise the Constititution. We can hardly understand why some parties consider it incompatible with constitutionalism.

Some people claim that revision of Article 96 will allow a person in power to revise the Constitution as easily as ordinary laws. Isn’t this rather simplistic?


Article 9 also is a major point of contention.

The LDP’s draft, released last year, for revising the supreme law calls for keeping the war-renouncing principle of Article 9 intact, while deleting its second paragraph, which prohibits this country from possessing any war potential. Instead, it calls for newly including a provision in Article 9 for establishment of a “military force for defense” and the state’s obligations for securing the nation’s territorial integrity in cooperation with the public.

Define status of SDF

Abe has stated, “Although the SDF are regarded by other countries as a military force, in this country they are not,” adding, “It is unreasonable for a large-scale organization of forces to have no status in the eyes of the Constitution.” Abe’s argument is reasonable.

Revision of Article 9 is vitally important to deepen the Japan-U.S. alliance as well as to increase Japan’s participation in such international cooperation activities as U.N.-mandated peacekeeping operations.

In this connection, it is a major development that Komeito in its upper house election pledges has said the party’s stand of “reinforcing the postwar Constitution by adding new ideas and articles to the supreme law” does include studies about the wisdom of having the existence of the SDF explicitly stipulated by the Constitution.

Ishin no Kai, for its part, has been advocating the need for constitutional revisions “for the sake of solidly establishing the nation’s own security system on the basis of its right to self-defense.”

Another opposition party, People’s Life Party, insists that the legal basis for the SDF’s participation in U.N. peacekeeping missions must be clearly laid down.

In contrast, the JCP and the SDP have been dead set against any changes to Article 9, arguing that alteration of the article would be tantamount to “turning Japan into a country that could wage war.”

It is undoubtedly irresponsible to affix an extremely negative label to parties favoring constitutional revision without squarely facing up to reality. The aim is to unnecessarily stir voters’ anxieties.

People’s Life Party leader Ichiro Ozawa, JCP Executive Committee Chairman Kazuo Shii and SDP head Mizuho Fukushima have criticized the LDP’s revision draft because it seeks to delete Article 97, which stipulates the inviolability of basic human rights.

It seems they are keen to give the public the impression that the LDP is poised to crack down on basic human rights.

In a rebuttal, Abe has stressed his party has no intention at all to change the fundamental principles of the Constitution, explaining that in the LDP draft Article 11 “absorbs” Article 97. Article 11 contains provisions that have the same effect as Article 97. Therefore, there seems to be no major problem.

Readiness for emergencies

Ishin no Kai, Your Party and other parties that are seeking to drastically reform the government structure through revisions of the Constitution have referred to the advisability of creating a system that allows for election of the prime minister by popular vote.

A plebiscite for choosing the prime minister, however, could end up as a mere popularity contest. Israel introduced a referendum system for electing the prime minister in 1996, but abolished it in 2001 because of the resulting political turmoil.

The LDP, Your Party and People’s Life Party, meanwhile, have proposed that new provisions be incorporated into the Constitution concerning such contingencies as a massive natural disaster and terrorist attacks.

There must be no stinting in drawing up legal preparations to cope with such possible calamities as an epicentral earthquake focused just below the Tokyo metropolitan area and a mega-quake such as a Nankai Trough earthquake.

Revision of the Constitution should also take the possibility of these national crises into account. Constitutional discussions must be deepened from this point of view.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 14, 2013)
(2013年7月14日01時56分  読売新聞)


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