« ギリシャ合意 危機回避へまだ楽観できない | トップページ | (社説)法案、参院へ 怒りと疑問にこたえよ »

2015年7月17日 (金)

(社説)安保法案の採決強行 戦後の歩み覆す暴挙

--The Asahi Shimbun, July 16
EDITORIAL: Japan’s postwar progress outrageously reversed
(社説)安保法案の採決強行 戦後の歩み覆す暴挙

The ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe railroaded a package of controversial security bills through a Lower House special committee on July 15.

For Abe, getting the bills passed by the committee represents a step forward toward in delivering on his promise to enact the legislation by this summer. He made the pledge during his April 29 address to a joint meeting of the U.S. House and Senate.

Even now, however, it cannot be said that the package of bills is widely understood by the Japanese public.

That’s hardly surprising. As the Diet spent more time on debating them, more contradictions in the legislation came to light, raising fresh doubts.

The situation was so miserable that even Abe himself had to admit, shortly before the vote, that public understanding of the legislation has not advanced much.


Yet, the Abe administration plowed on regardless. The ruling camp used its parliamentary majority to get its way, even though the bills have been judged to be “unconstitutional” by many members of the public, constitutional scholars, former chiefs of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau and a wide range of other experts.
This is an outrageous action that takes a majority force’s arrogance and irresponsibility to the extreme.

This move is not just a rebellion against constitutionalism, which in essence means that the government’s power is defined and limited by the Constitution. It is also a serious challenge to the value of the democratic system Japan has been building up during the 70 years since the end of World War II.

Let us keep in our memory a statement Abe repeated in the process of the deliberations on the proposed legislation.

“After mature and exhaustive debate, the decision should be made when the time is ripe for the decision. That is the proper way of parliamentary democracy.”

But we must say that if Diet deliberations are not intended as a serious effort to build a consensus with the public and are evaluated only by the amount of time spent, they cannot qualify as “mature debate.”

Even though it won a parliamentary majority in the last election, the ruling camp has no right to contravene the basic principles of the Constitution like pacifism and challenge the fundamental values of democracy by making such a vital security policy decision on the basis of “a majority vote without mature debate.”

If that is the Abe administration’s approach to democracy, we can never support it.

Let us look back on the Abe administration’s track record to date.

Prior to the Cabinet decision last summer to allow Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense, the administration established its own National Security Council, which makes it possible for a small number of ministers to make security policy decisions. At the same time, the administration went ahead with the controversial state secrets protection law.

If the national security legislation is enacted, the government will be able to make decisions on the use of weapons by the Self-Defense Forces anywhere on the earth, even if Japan is not under attack. And the decisions can be made in a process that is not subject to public or parliamentary scrutiny.

Such decisions will be based merely on a “comprehensive judgment” by the prime minister and a small number of other Cabinet members.

While the government will have broad discretion in making security policy decisions, there will be no legal guarantee of sufficient involvement in the decision-making process even by the Diet.

There have been other episodes that help illustrate the Abe administration’s views about democracy, which clearly put the state before the people and public interest before individual interest.

In one such episode that is still fresh in our memory, the Liberal Democratic Party made a series of intimidating remarks that raised concerns about freedom of expression. One ruling party lawmaker called for “punishing” the news media and said, “advertisers should voluntarily boycott media that are misleading Japan.”


The LDP also called into question the appropriateness of specific programs aired by Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK) and TV Asahi, and summoned executives of these broadcasters for questioning. Prior to last year’s Lower House election, the party sent letters to TV broadcasters urging them to ensure “fair and neutral” reporting on the election.

This is not an issue for news organizations alone. Regulating freedom of expression and freedom of speech could lead to restrictions on the people’s right to know. That would be tantamount to trampling on the rights of the people as a whole.

The education minister has urged national universities to make sure that the national flag is hoisted and the anthem sung during ceremonies. The LDP has also turned up the heat on teachers in response to the scheduled lowering of the voting age to 18. The party has put strong pressure on teachers to maintain “political neutrality” with the threat of punishment.

Freedom of expression and academic freedom mean that activities like news reporting, academic research and education can be pursued freely without any restriction or intervention by the government.
These freedoms, which are the foundations of healthy democracy, are now threatened by people who control permit and license rights as well as public funds.

Ruling party heavyweight Shigeru Ishiba, minister in charge of revitalizing local economies, recently stated that the LDP will "face a crisis when people increasingly begin to feel that there is something obnoxious (about the party)."
But it is the people’s freedom and rights that are facing a crisis.

The draft proposal to rewrite the Constitution that the LDP decided on three years ago, when it was in opposition, contains an element that symbolically suggests the party’s basic stance toward these democratic values.

The draft would set certain conditions for freedom of expression that is completely and unconditionally guaranteed by the Constitution. It says, “Activities aimed at harming public interest and public order” shall not be allowed.


As Abe and other top policymakers in the ruling camp say, some significant changes have occurred in the international environment surrounding Japan. This includes China’s rise as a major power.

And, quite rightly, political leaders are responsible for considering new security policy responses to such changes.

If, as a result of such a policy review, policymakers believe Japan needs to be allowed to exercise the right to collective self-defense or to provide logistic support to the forces of other countries as part of its international contribution, political leaders should first explain their views to the public and then seek to amend the Constitution through formal procedures, which would entail holding a national referendum on the issue.
That is how this radical shift in security policy should be carried out in our democracy.

Ignoring this rule seriously undermines the very foundation for Japan’s identity as a country under the rule of law.

We cannot accept the Abe administration’s mistaken views about democracy, which seems to assume that the majority force can do whatever it likes.

The battle is not over yet. We call on the Abe administration to pay serious attention to the voices of the people with whom sovereign power resides instead of paying lip service to the importance of “mature debate.”


« ギリシャ合意 危機回避へまだ楽観できない | トップページ | (社説)法案、参院へ 怒りと疑問にこたえよ »





« ギリシャ合意 危機回避へまだ楽観できない | トップページ | (社説)法案、参院へ 怒りと疑問にこたえよ »