Editorial: Prime Minister Abe’s stance on constitutional amendments dangerously belittles the constitution

May 8, 2019 Ryukyu Shimpo

In a video message released by Prime Minister Abe Shinzo May 3, he announced his intention to revise Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, including an explicit reference to the Japanese Self Defense Forces (JSDF), and stated that he was sticking to the goal of carrying out the revision by 2020. However, the calls from Japan’s citizens demanding this revision happen are not getting any louder. For the Abe administration and Diet ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the amendment itself has become the goal, and their aggressive methods and language are the only things that stand out.

In March of 2018, the LDP identified four constitutional amendments: (1) specifications in Article 9 for the JSDF, (2) the establishment of a state of emergency clause, (3) the elimination of “combined districts” in Upper House elections, and (4), doing away with educational fees and strengthening the education system.

Of the proposed revisions, the elimination of combined electoral districts, where a single electoral district straddles two prefectures, is an improvement, however it cannot be denied that a conversation about the electoral system as a constitutional theme feels a bit sudden. The elimination of these combined districts was approved by a single vote. Not enough discussion has been had about an issue that has major ramifications for the political power of voters.

The fortification of the education system is not a revision of the constitution itself, but rather looks at the laws that govern education such as the Basic Act on Education, and as such is suitable.

Making a specific reference to the JSDF in Article 9, as well as a “State of Emergency Clause” that would restrict the rights of citizens during emergencies, are the two true aims of their constitutional efforts. The hasty heaping on of the pleasant-sounding elimination of education fees is no more than a Hail Mary by Abe to get past the constitutional amendment hurdle.

When the LDP’s acting secretary general, Koichi Hagiuda, appeared on an internet TV program in April, he said regarding the activity of the Upper and Lower House, which has yet to meet even one time during the current parliamentary session, “When the new era (Reiwa) arrives, we need to move forward with a bit of a wild investigation of the constitution.” After receiving criticism from the opposing parties Hagiuda walked back the comments and issued an apology, however the true nature of the desperate LDP’s desire to revise the constitution had been revealed.

Until then, the drafted proposals for a constitutional amendment included common-good stipulations such as the establishment of a “Self-Defense Army” and a clause stating “a duty to defend our own country and society.” The Prime minister and LDP’s primary view of the constitution is that it should not control the power of the government, but has changed toward a trend of restricting the power of its citizens.

According to a public opinion survey conducted by Kyodo News in February and March, opposition to a revision of the Japanese constitution under an Abe administration was 54%, while those supporting it was just over 42%. Without commenting on the height of people’s understanding of the issue, the poll shows that Japan’s citizens see through the suspicious change in the goals of amending the constitution.

In June of 2014 in Saitama City, Saitama, a haiku about a demonstration to protect Article 9 was denied a posting at the community hall for the reason that it, “Harmed equality and neutrality.” In the lawsuit that followed, it was decided that the Saitama City had to pay damages to the author.
Public officials have a duty to respect the constitution, so to label something that expresses a desire to protect the constitution as “political” and use that as the grounds for removal is certainly odd. The Abe administration’s stance on constitutional revision has given birth to a wave of constitutional disrespect. It is fair to say that the “harm” was brought about by the government.

Prime Minister Abe should immediately abandon this constitutional amendment, one which does not have the understanding of the country’s citizens.

(English translation by T&CT and Sam Grieb)

Go to Japanese


Previous Article:
Next Article:

[Similar Articles]