The main opposition parties have reacted strongly to the convening of the House of Representatives Commission on the Constitution on Nov. 29 by the authority of its chairman, Eisuke Mori (Liberal Democratic Party [LDP]). It is now even more unlikely for the LDP to achieve its goal of submitting its constitutional revision proposals before the current Diet session adjourns on Dec. 10.
In addition to the LDP and Komeito, Diet members of the opposition Nippon Ishin [Japan Innovation Party], Party of Hope, and the Lower House floor group Future Japan attended the commission meeting on Nov. 29. Six new commission members were elected, including Yoshitaka Shindo, who will serve as the executive secretary for the ruling parties. Since the main opposition parties, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ) and the Democratic Party for the People skipped the meeting, the ruling parties did not seek the start of interpellations on the amendments to the national referendum law, which have been carried over from previous meetings. The LDP gave up on its plan to enact this bill during the current session, shifting to a strategy of prioritizing the submission of its constitutional revision proposals.
It is unusual for the Commission on the Constitution to be convened by the authority of its chairman since this forum is run based on a consensus between the ruling and opposition parties by convention. Shindo stressed after the meeting that “this had to be done in order to fulfill our responsibility to the people.”
Meanwhile, the Diet Affairs Committee chairpersons of the five opposition parties and one floor group which did not participate in the meeting met with their LDP counterpart Hiroshi Moriyama at the Diet on Nov. 29. CDPJ Diet affairs chief Kiyomi Tsujimoto lodged a strong protest, asserting that “this is an absolutely impermissible breaking of the rule; the constitution debate will be delayed for 100 years.”
The LDP’s insistence on holding the commission meeting on Nov. 29 is an indication of its serious concern that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s goal of submitting constitutional revision proposals in the current Diet session hangs in the balance.
Since the regular meeting day of the commission is on Thursdays, this step taken barely gives the LDP a “last chance” (in the words of a party executive) to do so on Dec. 6 before the Diet adjourns. Shindo, who is close to Abe, said that, “We will not give up and will pursue all possibilities,” stressing his intent to hold commission meetings by consensus between the ruling and opposition parties.
However, the CDPJ, which liaises for the opposition parties on scheduling, is taking a tough stance, so prospects for holding more meetings remain uncertain.
Komeito, which has so far kept in step with the LDP, is also adopting a cautious stance on this issue since it prioritizes passing the amendments to the referendum law. This party asserts that “forcing through the submission of the constitutional revision proposals will leave major problems for the future,” according to a senior party official. (Slightly abridged)