The main opposition Liberal Democratic Party released a conservative draft aimed at revising the Constitution to upgrade Japan’s Self-Defense Forces to a “national defense military” and restrict freedom of speech in national emergencies.
But the draft, revealed on April 27, stopped short of including bold steps to revamp the governing structure, such as abolishing the Upper House or combining the two houses of the Diet into a single chamber.
Yasuo Hasebe, professor of the Constitution at the University of Tokyo, criticized the LDP draft as half-baked because it lacked fundamental steps to address the problem-laden governing structure.
“(The draft) is trying to raise the party’s profile with conservatives, but the LDP does not appear eager to make specific changes,” Hasebe said. “If the party chose not to touch on the ‘too powerful Upper House,' the biggest issue under the existing Constitution, out of regard for its lawmakers in that chamber, it cannot avoid the impression that the party just tinkered with cosmetic changes.”
Critics of the current Diet setup blame the Upper House, now controlled by the LDP and other opposition parties, for blocking bills passed by the Lower House, which is controlled by the ruling Democratic Party of Japan.
The reform-minded Your Party also unveiled a draft on April 27, proposing the consolidation of the two Diet chambers to drastically overhaul the current structure.
The opposition parties’ revision proposals came ahead of the 60th anniversary of San Francisco Peace Treaty going into force on April 28, which restored Japan’s sovereignty, and the anniversary of the enactment on May 3, 1947, of the Constitution, which was drafted by the General Headquarters of the Allied Powers after Japan’s surrender in World War II.
LDP President Sadakazu Tanigaki said the party’s proposal would create a genuine Constitution drafted by the Japanese public.
“I want to make clear the direction and the framework for principles of Japan,” he told reporters on April 27.
The LDP’s draft, based on a version drawn up in 2005, defined the emperor as head of state despite the emperor’s current status as a symbol of the state and unity of the people. It also said the Constitution should state that the Hinomaru and “Kimigayo” are Japan’s national flag and anthem.
Although the LDP initially used a term that translates into “self-defense military,” it later settled on “national defense military” for the new status of the SDF.
“It fits the morale of SDF members,” Tanigaki said.
The LDP draft also emphasized the importance of putting the state and public order first by restricting freedom of speech and expression while obliging the public to comply with authorities in the event of a national emergency.
The LDP will call for cooperation from other parties toward revising the Constitution, but constitutional amendments present a challenging process.
Simply proposing constitutional revisions to voters in a national referendum requires more than two-thirds of votes from lawmakers in both chambers of the Diet.
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