Japan’s ruling LDP approaches Ishin to revise Constitution

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The Liberal Democratic Party has approached Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party), which has been actively working to revise the Constitution and strengthen Japan’s defense capabilities, in a bid to jointly advance the debate on constitutional reform.

The LDP will similarly seek cooperation from the Democratic Party for the People.

Another aim of the LDP is to restrain Komeito, which is reluctant to realize its coalition partner’s constitutional reform plan and strengthen the nation’s defense capabilities.

LDP Secretary General Toshimitsu Motegi met with his Ishin counterpart Nobuyuki Baba at a restaurant in Tokyo on Nov. 9th. Expressing his desire for the Diet to start the process of constitutional amendment and hold a referendum, Motegi said: “I am determined to put the referendum law in the hands of the people at least once. I want to allow the people to become involved with the Constitution.”

Baba responded, “I want the Commission on the Constitution [in the Diet] to move firmly.”

The meeting that evening was proposed by the LDP and had the chairpersons of each party’s Diet Affairs Committee in attendance. The lawmakers reaffirmed their policy of working together in the Diet to promote discussions on constitutional reform.

Parties including the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan — the No. 1 opposition party — were reluctant to hold meetings of the Commission on the Constitution in both houses of the Diet. As a result, commission meetings were convened only four times in the ordinary Diet session from January to June this year, while the House of Councillors held six meetings.

The LDP is reaching out to the DPFP as well to resolve the situation. Seishiro Eto, chairperson of the LDP’s Headquarters for the Promotion of Revision of the Constitution, called DPFP leader Yuichiro Tamaki on Nov. 8, asking for his cooperation in the constitutional reform debate.

Tamaki responded by saying, “We must move forward with the constitutional discussions.”

There is a widespread view within the LDP that now is the time to change the Constitution, and that if Ishin and the DPFP are brought into the fold, criticism that the ruling parties alone are promoting the debate can be avoided.

If Ishin and the DPFP join forces with the ruling parties, they will have the two-thirds majority in both houses of the Diet that is needed to hold a referendum on constitutional reform.

Ishin and DPFP have a total of 52 seats in the lower house, more than the 32 seats held by Komeito. A senior LDP official said, “If we can reach an agreement with Ishin and the DPFP, Komeito will have no choice but to participate in the reform debate.”

Ishin leader Ichiro Matsui said: “As an opposition party, we will deal with issues on a right-or-wrong basis.” However, when it comes to the constitutional reform debate, Ishin is determined to put pressure on the LDP to accelerate the process.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is considering strengthening the nation’s defense capabilities, including acquiring the capability to attack enemy bases, which would allow Japan to destroy enemy missile launch bases for self-defense purposes. Some within the LDP are hoping for Ishin and the DPFP’s cooperation also in the security field.

Komeito is wary of the LDP approaching Ishin and the DPFP, as the party remains cautious about the LDP’s proposal to stipulate the existence of the Self-Defense Forces in the Constitution. Komeito also rejects the idea of gaining attack capabilities on enemy bases.

At a press conference, Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi said, “The LDP and Komeito are responsible for the nation’s politics, having concluded an agreement on the government and taken up ministerial posts.”