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Abe stressing “humility” in Diet interpellations to pave way for constitutional revision

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is adopting a noticeably humble attitude in the representative interpellations at both houses of the Diet. This is based on lessons learned from his approach to questions on the Moritomo Gakuen and Kake Gakuen issues in the previous regular Diet session, which resulted in a rapid drop in cabinet support ratings. It appears that he also realizes that taking an aggressive stance would result in strong reaction from the opposition parties, thus undermining the momentum of the constitutional debate.


On Nov. 21, Abe looked at where Katsuya Okada, leader of the Independents Club, was seated from the podium and politely requested deliberation, stating: “I would also like to engage in open and constructive discussions with the Independents Club, so I request your cooperation.” Although Okada had provoked him earlier by saying: “The Prime Minister is good at criticizing the Democratic Party of Japan administration and attacking the opposition parties,” Abe responded calmly.


On the other hand, the drastic change in Abe’s attitude in Diet interpellations is also seen as part of his constitutional revision strategy. While the ruling parties and the forces in favor of constitutional revision now control a two-thirds majority in both houses of the Diet, which is necessary for submitting constitutional amendment motions, looking ahead at the referendum that will come after that, it is desirable to win the support of more opposition parties.


On Nov. 21, with regard to his proposal to legitimize the existence of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) in the Constitution, Abe merely reiterated that “it is the responsibility of our generation to eliminate any room for questioning the SDF’s constitutionality.” He took a humble attitude in calling for constitutional debate and is now gauging how the opposition will react.


However, even if Abe proceeds with caution, there is no guarantee that things will turn out as he envisions. Komeito Secretary General Yoshihisa Inoue made no mention of constitutional revision at all in his representative interpellation on the same day, illustrating the party’s gap with the Liberal Democratic Party on this issue. After the Diet meeting, Inoue told reporters: “Constitutional revision is done by motions submitted to the Diet. There was no reason to ask the cabinet questions.” (Abridged)

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