Lawmaker’s Inappropriate Remarks Put Damper on Discussions

The legislative body is responsible for reviewing how the supreme law should be in response to the changing times. The recent remarks by a Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker ridiculing the energetic discussions are unacceptable.

Members of the Commission on the Constitution in both chambers are engaged in vigorous debate. During the current Diet session, the House of Representatives commission has held discussions seven times, and the House of Councillors commission has done so twice.

The focus is on whether to create a state of emergency clause.

The Liberal Democratic Party has argued that there should be a provision that would make it possible to extend Diet members’ terms of office in the event that national elections cannot be held due to a large-scale disaster or other extraordinary situations.

Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party) and the Democratic Party for the People have also drafted texts, together with some other lawmakers, that would allow lawmakers’ terms of office to be extended for up to six months based on such scenarios as armed attacks, acts of terrorism, natural disasters or the spread of infectious diseases.

A situation in which the Diet is unable to function in an acute crisis and fails to pass budgets and laws must be avoided. The aim of strengthening preparations for emergencies is understandable.

In contrast, the CDPJ argues against such a clause, saying that situations can be dealt with by convening “the House of Councillors in an emergency session” as stipulated in Article 54 of the Constitution.

Holding an emergency session of the upper house is the only provision defined in the current Constitution as a response to an emergency situation. However, what the Constitution envisions is that holding the emergency session is limited to a maximum of 70 days between the dissolution of the lower house and the convening of a special Diet session.

Can a situation that might shake the nation be handled only through an emergency session? The ruling and opposition parties should deepen discussions on how to maintain the functions of the Diet, based on various scenarios.

After years of stagnation, the discussions had finally been revitalized, but the remarks made by CDPJ upper house lawmaker Hiroyuki Konishi cast a damper on them.

Regarding the lower house commission, which meets on a regular basis, Konishi said, “Holding a meeting every week is what monkeys would do.” His remarks sounded as if they were meant to suppress debate and were extremely ill-advised.

Furthermore, Konishi posted a message on social media to the broadcaster that reported his remarks, saying, “You have some nerve, picking a fight with a former deputy director of the Broadcasting Policy Division.”

Konishi was formerly an official at the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry. At a budget deliberation, he criticized administrative documents concerning the interpretation of the Broadcasting Law, which were compiled during the Cabinet of then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, saying, “The Prime Minister’s Office had tried to tighten restrictions on the media.” That the same person attempted to put pressure on the media is appalling beyond words.

The CDPJ removed Konishi from his position as the chief director for the opposition parties at the commission. However, criticism did not cease, and about two weeks after his remarks, the CDPJ admonished Konishi and forced him to resign from the post of chairperson of the CDPJ’s Policy Council in the upper house.

Even so, Konishi continues to refuse to apologize at a meeting of the commission. If such an attitude is allowed, the judgment of the CDPJ as a whole will be called into question.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 16, 2023)