Political discussions must be based on reality

Drastic changes in the international situation and the coronavirus crisis have created situations that go beyond the originally intended scope of the Constitution. The views of all political parties on the supreme law are being tested.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has shown that the outrageous act of seizing a country’s territory by force can become a reality. China is increasing its hegemonic moves and North Korea is repeatedly conducting provocative missile launches.

It is essential to consider what is necessary for Japan’s security. Using that as a starting point, each party should discuss how to amend the articles of the Constitution based on reality. Although there is only a short amount of time left in the House of Councillors election campaign, it is hoped that parties will deepen their discussions on the issue.

In the upper house election, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party) and the Democratic Party for the People have expressed their willingness to revise the Constitution.

The LDP pledged to “revise the Constitution and create a new shape of the nation” in its election manifesto. The party said it would seek public understanding regarding four proposed amendments including the stipulation of the Self-Defense Forces in Article 9 of the Constitution. Ishin also included in its manifesto the stipulation of the existence of the SDF in Article 9.

As the security environment worsens and the significance of the SDF increases, the current situation in which some people still believe that the SDF are unconstitutional should be corrected.

The DPFP stated in its pledges that it will “promote specific discussions on how to deal with Paragraph 2 of Article 9, which prohibits the nation from having a military force and the rights of belligerency.” It is understandable that the party intends to think squarely about the interpretation of the SDF and war potential.

The Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan has made it clear that the party is open to debate on the Constitution, saying it will facilitate discussions to restrict the power of the state and help expand the rights of the people. However, it opposes the inclusion of the existence of the SDF in the Constitution.

It cannot be said to be constructive to insist on restricting the government’s authority when discussing the Constitution. As the largest opposition party, the CDPJ needs to present a view on security policy that unequivocally faces reality.

The LDP, Ishin and the DPFP have called for the creation of provisions in the Constitution to deal with emergency situations. Ruling coalition partner Komeito, which has called for adding provisions to the Constitution, is also positive about extending the term of Diet members. The Japanese Communist Party opposes constitutional revision.

If Diet members’ terms of office expire and the legislative branch fails to function sufficiently in the event of an emergency such as a large-scale disaster or an armed attack, they will not be able to respond appropriately. Strengthening the government’s authority to enable flexible responses will also be an important issue to consider.

During the last ordinary Diet session, commissions of the Constitution in both houses of the Diet held discussions almost once a week. It is noteworthy that discussions on the Constitution, which had been stalled for a long time, have finally begun to move forward.

Upper house members should be able to deepen their discussions from a broad perspective because, unlike members of the House of Representatives, they have six-year terms and do not have to worry about dissolution. It is hoped that each party will find common ground.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 8, 2022)