By Satoshi Sekoguchi
The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and Komeito won a majority of the seats being contested in the recent House of Councillors election, resulting in the forces in favor of constitutional revision controlling a two-thirds majority in both houses of the Diet.
Sankei Shimbun concluded that “the voters decided that the continuation of a strong administration is necessary for dealing with the difficult domestic and international issues Japan is facing.” It pointed out that “the voters rightly saw through the unrealistic policies ignoring the international situation” proposed by the Democratic Party (DP), the Japanese Communist Party (JCP), and two other opposition parties. It also asserted that “the main cause of their defeat is cooperation with the JCP, which stands for completely different basic policies,” reiterating its criticism of the DP-JCP united front.
Yomiuri Shimbun observed that “the voters’ wish is to strengthen Abenomics and end deflation.” It offered the analysis that the reason for the DP’s poor showing is that its advocacy of the repeal of the “unconstitutional” security laws failed to win support and its cooperation with the JCP was criticized as an “alliance of convenience.”
These two papers also made stern demands on the Shinzo Abe administration. Sankei asked that the process of ending deflation be accelerated and that every possible effort be made to revise the constitution and reinforce the security systems. It made the following critical observations: “Policy management premised on an expected substantial increase in revenue income from economic growth is perilous” and “there should be no overly optimistic expectations on the results of Abenomics.”
Yomiuri also called for steady implementation of policies to strike a balance between economic revitalization and restoration of fiscal health, as well as foreign and security policies to deal with instability in Asia. It warned that “the Prime Minister must not be arrogant, thinking that Abenomics has obtained full support.” On the issue of constitutional revision, it urged the Commissions on the Constitution to hold level-headed discussions on the provisions that need to be amended.
On the other hand, Nihon Keizai Shimbun took the position that while deliberation on constitutional revision is necessary, this is not the top priority. It argued that the government should focus on economic revitalization before working on constitutional revision in stages. It predicted that since Abe did not campaign on the issue of constitutional amendment in the election, “he may fall into the ‘constitutional revision trap’ in which his own strategy will create a situation that makes it difficult for him to move toward the revision of the constitution.”
In contrast to these three newspapers, Asahi Shimbun, Mainichi Shimbun, and Tokyo Shimbun, which had published editorials critical of constitutional revision so far, all carried editorials that focused on their fear that constitutional revision may move forward, with the following titles: “A real turning point in postwar politics” (Asahi), “A possible turning point in postwar political history” (Mainichi), and “A watershed in postwar Japanese politics” (Tokyo Shimbun).
Asahi cited the fact that Abe did not campaign actively on constitutional revision during the election and asserted that “the outcome of this election definitely does not mean that the people have given the go-ahead for constitutional revision.”
Mainichi, while not objecting to a review of the constitution, stressed that the Liberal Democratic Party’s draft amendment proposals should be scrapped when the Commissions on the Constitution resume deliberation. It claimed that these draft proposals, which include the transformation of the Self-Defense Forces into a national defense force and restrictions on the people’s rights in the name of “public welfare and order,” run counter to the trends of modern democracy.
Tokyo Shimbun pointed out that “this is not a situation where the people’s peaceful living will be seriously threatened unless the constitution is revised or a situation where there is an upsurge in demands for revision from the people.”
Commenting on the opposition united front during the election, Asahi said that “there is no doubt that an opposition united front is the most effective means to compete with the powerful ruling bloc,” while Mainichi took a slightly different view, indicating that “it is also necessary to review the united front strategy with the JCP.”
In any case, overwhelming support from the voters has consolidated the political base of the current administration. Sankei stated in its editorial on July 12 that “the conditions are now in place to take up the first significant task in the history of constitutionalism — reviewing Japan’s basic law” — and that “now is the time for the Prime Minister and the LDP to stress the most important issues with the constitution.” It asserted without reserve that with a solid political base, now is the time to act. (Slightly abridged)