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2016年3月 6日 (日)

安倍首相へ あなたの憲法なのか

--The Asahi Shimbun, March 4
EDITORIAL: The Constitution is not Abe’s plaything
(社説)安倍首相へ あなたの憲法なのか

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe continues to show his ardent ambition to amend Japan’s postwar Constitution.

At a recent Upper House Budget Committee session, Abe voiced his desire to bring pro-amendment forces together for the two-thirds majority in both house of the Diet required to initiate the process for constitutional amendments, which includes a national referendum. He then indicated a time frame for achieving the goal.
“I want to amend the Constitution while I am still in office,” he said.

Politicians are expected to talk about their policy goals.

But there is serious confusion of priorities in Abe’s agenda for constitutional amendments.

One problem is how he intends to rewrite the Constitution.

He says he will first seek to secure a two-thirds majority for pro-amendment politicians in both Diet houses. When asked which part of the Constitution he wants to change, however, he has repeatedly said that each party should make its own proposal for debate at the Commission on the Constitution of both houses.

This is tantamount to saying he just wants to make any amendment to the Constitution, starting where there is the least resistance.

Abe’s approach to this policy challenge probably reflects his long-held wish to recreate the Constitution, which was “imposed” on Japan by the United States.

It is true that political discourse on the Constitution during the postwar era has been dominated by the amendment issue.

We can understand arguments to revise specific parts of the Constitution to correct perceived shortcomings.

But if Abe’s campaign for constitutional amendments puts priority on rewriting the document itself, then he is putting the cart before the horse.

Abe’s interest in protecting the Constitution stands in sharp contrast to his solid commitment to revising it. This is another example of his misplaced priorities.

Abe has overturned the government’s traditional interpretation of the Constitution regarding Japan’s right to collective self-defense.
Only through discussions within his administration, Abe has thrown away the official government position, endorsed by successive Cabinets, that Japan must amend war-renouncing Article 9 if it wants to take part in collective self-defense.

Despite repeated calls by the Supreme Court for reapportionment of Diet seats to realize equality in vote value, Abe has been trying to postpone taking necessary steps to tackle the problem.

More recently, Abe has refused to reprove communications minister Sanae Takaichi for her assertion that the government can legally shut down broadcasters that continue to air “biased political reports.”

A group of experts, including Yoichi Higuchi, professor emeritus of the Constitution at the University of Tokyo, said at a news conference in Tokyo on March 2 that it would be unconstitutional for Takaichi to take such a move based solely on the Broadcast Law’s Article 4, which requires political fairness and neutrality in broadcasting.

“The basic principle of a free democratic society that any person cannot appoint themselves as court judges about matters they are involved in is important,” Higuchi said of Takaichi’s claim.

By this comment Higuchi meant politicians are not entitled to determine the definition of political fairness.

The Constitution imposes various restraints on the government’s power to prevent violations of people’s rights, such as freedom of expression.

But the Abe administration has shown a disturbing tendency to disregard these restraints without much hesitation.

The administration’s lack of respect for the Constitution seems to be behind its anything-is-good attitude regarding its constitutional amendment agenda.

Abe is part of the government, whose power and authority is defined and limited by the Constitution. He must understand that the Constitution is not the possession of the person who is in power.


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