By Teizo Toyokawa and Midori Satsukawa / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writers
The latest Yomiuri Shimbun survey of candidates for the Oct. 22 House of Representatives election has revealed that 90 percent of those running with the Liberal Democratic Party, Komeito, Nippon Ishin no Kai and Kibo no To (Party of Hope) are positive toward constitutional amendment — indicating that debate on the issue may progress according to the election results.
However, the path toward reaching a consensus on the issue appears to be rocky, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s proposals — to add a provision defining the legal grounds for the Self-Defense Forces to Article 9, and to bring a new constitution into effect in 2020 — remain unable to win the understanding of any party other than the LDP.
The Yomiuri survey showed that more than 60 percent of all candidates support constitutional revision, and that the parties are more clearly divided over the matter than before. This is attributed to the fact that many members of the Democratic Party, which wavered in its stance on the matter, joined two new parties: pro-revision Kibo no To, and the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ), which is cautious about constitutional amendment.
By party, all Ishin candidates back revision, followed by 98 percent in the LDP, 92 percent in Kibo and 89 percent in Komeito. The CDPJ was split: 38 percent in support of revision, and 58 percent against it. Those running in the Japanese Communist Party and Social Democratic Party all opposed amendment.
Many former lawmakers of the DP, which opposed constitutional revision under the Abe administration, have joined Kibo. The new party excluded anti-revision forces by exchanging policy agreements with the candidates it officially endorsed — stipulating that they should support revision of the Constitution and advance a wide range of discussions over the issue.
Interparty debates on constitutional issues could get into full swing after the lower house election, now that Kibo has joined the pro-amendment forces of Ishin and the ruling coalition of the LDP and Komeito.
However, huge differences in opinion remain when it comes to which items of the top law should be amended.
The prime minister has proposed revisions that include retaining paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 9 and adding a provision that would establish constitutional grounds for the existence of the SDF. This proposal was supported by 73 percent of LDP candidates and 70 percent of Ishin’s, but the figures were much lower in Komeito (22 percent) and Kibo (38 percent).
Fifty-eight percent of Komeito candidates and 33 percent of Kibo’s were negative about the idea, saying, “Article 9 should not be revised.” The levels of support and opposition regarding a change to Article 9 differ between those parties.
When asked about focal points for revision, the parties also largely differ from each other — including, for example, an “environmental right” (Komeito), “roles of the central and local governments” (Kibo) and “tuition-free education” (Ishin). They will likely face difficulties in narrowing down the points to revise.
Abe has set a target of bringing a new constitution into effect in 2020. Eighty-seven percent of the LDP candidates and 90 percent of Ishin’s say they support the idea. However, 82 percent of Komeito candidates and 68 percent of Kibo’s say they oppose it.