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Editorial: LDP amendment draft is a flawed perception of the Constitution

  • October 19, 2016
  • , The Asahi Shimbun , 14:10
  • English Press

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s headquarters to promote constitutional amendments has reopened a debate following the Upper House election in which members favoring constitutional revision gained two-thirds of the seats in the chamber.


Regarding the party’s draft constitutional amendment, Chairman Okiharu Yasuoka of the Headquarters for the Promotion of Revision to the Constitution defined the draft as “one of the official documents” of the party during the headquarters’ plenary session on Oct. 18.


Yasuoka stated the party will not retract it but does not intend to submit the draft to the commissions on the Constitution in both chambers of the Diet.


Written in 2012 while the LDP was an opposition party, the draft echoes the prewar and wartime Japanese mentality of putting the nation ahead of individuals. For this reason, the Democratic Party and other opposition parties insist that the LDP should scrap the draft.


But shortly after the July Upper House election, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe noted, “How to build up the two-thirds support on the basis of our party’s idea will indeed be a question of political technique.”


From Abe’s comment, it is reasonable to conclude that the LDP’s draft constitutional amendment reflects the party’s true intention.


But the draft is fraught with problems, the most obvious of which is that it is totally at odds with the very purpose for which Japan’s Constitution is supposed to exist.


Any constitution that is based on the principle of constitutionalism is essentially a set of rules for keeping the state power in check to protect the rights of citizens.


But the LDP’s draft constitutional amendment clearly aims to impose various duties on the people and force a specific set of values on the people. In other words, it is meant to control the people, rather than to keep the state in check.


For example, Article 24 of the LDP’s proposed Constitution stipulates, “A family shall be respected as a natural and basic unit of society and family members shall help each other.”


During a recent Diet session, Democratic Party leader Renho raised these questions: “What is the (LDP’s) intention behind the introduction of (the article on) a family into the Constitution? Would this provision not take Japan back to the olden days?”


Many people obviously believe in respecting family ties. But the Constitution should never oblige the people to “help each other as family members.”


And completely deleted from the LDP draft is Article 97 of the current Constitution, which stipulates that fundamental human rights are conferred “to be held for all time inviolate.”


The prime minister explained the deletion as merely a result of the editing and tightening of the articles of the Constitution. But what does he think of the significance of the fact that this article is stipulated in the chapter “Supreme Law”?


The LDP draft also makes it a duty for the people to respect the Constitution. Even though the draft provides for heavier obligations for Diet members and other public officials to uphold the Constitution, here again the LDP’s thinking is back-to-front or upside-down in terms of whom the Constitution is supposed to keep under control.


Underlying the LDP draft Constitution and running through it like a basso continuo is the philosophy that the interests of the state and groups supersede the human rights of individual citizens that are highly valued under the current Constitution.


If this is truly the image of Japan envisioned by the LDP, we must say that the constitutional revision sought by the Abe administration is extremely dangerous.


We cannot foresee how debates on constitutional amendment between the ruling and opposition parties will proceed in the days ahead. But the most important premise is that such debates should proceed only if the great majority of the public, as well as all political parties, recognizes and fully understands the need for constitutional revision.


But that premise will never be followed, so long as the LDP’s perception of the Constitution remains at odds with the fundamental spirit of the current Constitution.

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