(Yomiuri: February 17, 2016 – p. 4)
The Liberal Democratic Party resumed discussions on constitutional revision on Feb. 16 for the first time in eight months. Eisuke Mori, chairman of the LDP’s Headquarters of the Promotion of Revision to the Constitution, will not seek to hold in-depth discussions on revision items for the time being out of consideration for the Komeito party, which is wary of making the issue a focal point in the House of Councillors election this summer. The party will also keep an eye on the post-election landscape and hopes to find common ground with the opposition parties.
“We have to attach importance to minority opinions when discussing constitutional revisions so we can reach a wide-ranging consensus,” said Mori at the meeting. A senior LDP member analyzes that his remarks underscore consideration for Komeito.
Soka Gakkai, the main support base of Komeito, remains leery of being dragged into discussions to revise the Constitution. “The LDP makes it a party platform for Japan to establish its own Constitution, but whether we can reach a consensus at the Diet is a different story,” said Natsuo Yamaguchi, the leader of Komeito.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to enlist support from the opposition parties to create an emergency clause that calls for extending the tenure of legislators in the event of natural disasters. During the current Diet session, he has made comments in favor of revising the Constitution on several occasions. But discussions bogged down before when Hajime Funada, Mori’s predecessor, was in charge. The LDP had proposed creating an emergency clause and a fiscal integrity clause, as well as establishing new human rights, such as environmental rights, but it failed to win the understanding of the opposition parties.
Against this backdrop, LDP Secretary-General Sadakazu Tanigaki, who also oversees election strategies, instructed Mori not to facilitate discussions at a premature stage. Tanigaki and Mori have in mind a strategy of creating momentum for collaboration between the ruling and opposition parties by avoiding making hasty decisions on revision items. “Tanigaki, a leading dove in the party, is acting as a brake on Abe, who is becoming too eager to revise the Constitution,” said a mid-ranking member of the party.
Meanwhile, the LDP is beginning to make preparations with an eye on the post-election landscape. The Upper House Commission on the Constitution decided to discuss a “bicameral system” on Feb. 17. The LDP also requested this as a discussion topic, as it will deal with issues, such as the division of roles between the Lower and Upper House, from a grand perspective and the Democratic Party of Japan has little choice but to accept this. Initiatives from Osaka is enthusiastic about revising Article 92 and 94, which govern rules on local autonomy. The LDP is also looking to encourage other parties to hold discussions on these topics. (Slightly abridged)