Commissions on the Constitution: Use Draft Texts as Starting Point to Deepen Debate on Revision of Top Law

Commissions on the Constitution have been holding discussions in the Diet; this is to be welcomed. However, it is not enough for them to merely express opinions. Instead, each party should present draft texts and narrow down the issues for revision.

The commissions of both the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors held their first discussions of the current Diet session.

The commissions have been meeting regularly since last year. It is hoped that they will fulfill their role in compiling draft amendment documents based on serious debate among the parties.

In the House of Representatives, a contingency clause to deal with such matters as armed attacks and large-scale disasters has become a point of contention.

Referring to such topics as the Constitution of Ukraine — a country currently facing ongoing Russian aggression — Gen Nakatani of the Liberal Democratic Party said: “It’s important to maintain the functions of the Diet in times of emergency. Specific measures should be considered promptly.”

The Diet, which makes decisions on laws and the budget, must not be allowed to become dysfunctional in times of national emergency. In light of the recent deterioration of the security environment and the frequent occurrence of natural disasters, it is an urgent task to add related provisions to the current Constitution.

A group of parties, including Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party) and the Democratic Party for the People, has jointly compiled draft texts on possible emergencies. The LDP formulated draft texts in 2018. These documents should be used as a starting point to formulate specific amendment proposals.

During discussions, Masaharu Nakagawa of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan called for talks on the issues of computerization and human rights.

Previously unimaginable problems have recently arisen, such as the spread of fake videos created by generative AI that depict likenesses of politicians. It is important to consider the type of measures that should be taken under the Constitution and laws, while protecting freedom of expression.

Meanwhile, the upper house’s commission has continued to discuss the issue of integrated constituencies combining neighboring prefectures for the upper house elections.

In recent years, the judiciary has emphasized voting equality and has sought to correct vote-value disparities. The Diet has been reducing the number of locally elected representatives, but it is unfeasible to continue such measures in the future as the population continues to decline.

An LDP proposal to allow at least one person from each prefecture to be elected for each election to help eliminate integrated constituencies is worthy of consideration.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said he will work to realize constitutional revision during his term as LDP president, which ends next September. In his policy speech, he referred to the “formulation of specific draft articles.” Observers say such remarks are aimed at sending a message to conservative voters to ensure they continue supporting the party.

It is commendable to pursue goals. But if the issue of constitutional revision is linked to political maneuvering, constitutional debates may inadvertently become distorted. The prime minister should choose his words carefully.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 20, 2023)