CRUCIAL VOTE: Clear divide over revising two articles of Constitution

July 05, 2013

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party have allies in terms of easing requirements for constitutional revisions, but his long-held dream of actually rewriting war-renouncing Article 9 could be more elusive.

The LDP is seeking to first amend Article 96, which sets the conditions for constitutional amendments, and then target pacifist Article 9.

The other major parties in the July 21 Upper House election have generally staked out clear positions on revising those two articles.

Article 96 currently states that a two-thirds majority of both chambers of the Diet is required to initiate a constitutional amendment.

The LDP and the Japan Restoration Party have included planks in their campaign platforms calling for the relaxation of that condition to a simple majority in both chambers.

Officials of the two parties argue that the public should decide on amendments. If more than one-third of the members of a single house oppose an amendment, it cannot be placed before voters in a national referendum.

At the same time, the two parties have slightly different takes on what they want to revise in the Constitution after lowering the amendment hurdle.

Abe and the LDP have long set their sights on Article 9, but the Japan Restoration Party is more interested in reforming the government structure by, for example, establishing a government level consisting of regional blocs as well as allowing the public to vote for the prime minister.

New Komeito, the LDP’s junior coalition partner, has taken a more cautious stance on revising Article 96. While it calls for maintaining strict amendment procedures in its campaign platform, the party also included wording that says, “It is preferable to debate revision of Article 96 along with other possible amendments.”

Your Party also favors a relaxation of amendment conditions. But like the Japan Restoration Party, Your Party wants to first reform the governing structure by moving toward a one-chamber Diet and allowing the public to vote for the prime minister.

Your Party leader Yoshimi Watanabe said other reform measures should be given priority, such as reforming the bureaucracy and giving more authority to local governments.

The Democratic Party of Japan is clearly opposed to first revising Article 96. Although some DPJ members favor constitutional revisions, the DPJ consensus on Article 96 is that the current conditions for initiating an amendment are logical.

The party has taken a clear stance on Article 96 to differentiate itself from the LDP.

Both the Japanese Community Party and Social Democratic Party are opposed to any tinkering of the Constitution. JCP officials have called a revision of Article 96 a fundamental rejection of the concept of constitutionalism.

The People’s Life Party, Green Wind and New Party Daichi all favor maintaining the conditions in Article 96.

If the LDP revises Article 96, the party plans to add wording to Article 9 to clearly state Japan’s right to self-defense as well as the establishment of a national defense force.

The LDP constitutional revision proposal compiled in 2012 totally deletes the sections of clause 2 of Article 9, which states “land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained” and “the right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.”

The title of Chapter 2 will be changed from “Renunciation of War” to “National Security,” according to the LDP plan.

Planks in the campaign platforms of the Japan Restoration Party and Your Party are similar to the LDP’s in terms of stating Japan’s right to self-defense.

On Article 9, New Komeito once again takes a different stance. In its campaign platform, the party calls for maintaining the two clauses of Article 9 on the grounds that the article played an important role in creating Japan’s postwar peace and prosperity.

New Komeito has also suggested an addition to the Constitution that would recognize the existence of the Self-Defense Forces.

The DPJ has not touched upon what it would do with Article 9 in its campaign platform, a reflection of the wide range of views within the party. In the past, the party has called for clarifying the limits placed on Japan’s right to self-defense.

Reflecting their long stances of protecting the Constitution, the JCP and SDP are strongly opposed to revising Article 9. People’s Life Party also favors maintaining Article 9.

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
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The original Constitution is kept in a lacquered box stored in a safe in the Imperial Palace in February 1968. It is now stored in the National Archives of Japan. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

The original Constitution is kept in a lacquered box stored in a safe in the Imperial Palace in February 1968. It is now stored in the National Archives of Japan. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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  • The original Constitution is kept in a lacquered box stored in a safe in the Imperial Palace in February 1968. It is now stored in the National Archives of Japan. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
  • The Asahi Shimbun

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