Seriously discussing the supreme law of our nation is a primary role of the Commission on the Constitution. The response to that task by some opposition parties cannot possibly be understood, given that they have even opposed the convening of a council meeting.
The commission at the House of Representatives has held its first meeting in the current Diet session. Objecting to the move, five parties, including the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ), and one parliamentary group were absent from the meeting.
Under such circumstances, only six new directors were chosen, including the chief representative from the ruling camp, and the meeting was adjourned.
With the passage of more than one month since the present Diet session was convened, the session is approaching its close.
Some commission directors were absent from the meeting, despite the fact that those in such posts are supposed to handle such practical matters as discussing the commission’s schedule and subjects for deliberation. Leaving the situation unchanged is tantamount to negating the functions of the Diet. The opposition parties’ stance was problematic, as they even refused to attend the meeting for the selection of such officials.
The ruling and opposition parties are at odds over a bill aimed at revising the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law to expand the acceptance of foreign workers. The CDPJ is insisting, “The environment for constitutional debates is not yet satisfactory.”
Since the establishment in 2000 of its predecessor, the Research Commission on the Constitution, the current commission has distanced itself from any political situation, and it has sought to promote debate. The opposition camp’s stance seems to be an act of disregarding what has been achieved by the commission.
The CDPJ raised an objection to the Liberal Democratic Party over the convening of a commission meeting unattended by the opposition parties, saying, “Constitutional debates will be delayed for 100 years.” It was unreasonable for the party to take advantage of the commission’s practice of promoting cooperation between the ruling and opposition parties, and to pass the buck to the ruling parties.
Form a broad consensus
Each party should express its views in the Diet regarding what the Constitution should be like to deepen constructive discussions. Doing so is the obligation of the legislature.
In the extraordinary Diet session, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has expressed his intention to present a four-item LDP draft for constitutional revisions that includes adding a clause that would provide the legal grounds for the Self-Defense Forces and create a state-of-emergency provision. The move is aimed at accelerating constitutional debates, with the draft used as a basis for such discussions.
Constitutional revision faces a high hurdle, as it requires amendments to be initiated through a concurring vote by two-thirds or more members of each chamber of the Diet and then to be endorsed by a public majority in a national referendum.
It is indispensable to form a broad-based consensus between the ruling and opposition parties and promote a wider understanding among the public. The LDP must tenaciously grapple with this.
The LDP intends to give up on the idea of ensuring the passing of a bill in the current Diet session aimed at revising the National Referendum Law, which sets out procedures for amending the top law.
The legislation is designed to improve the convenience of voting in a national referendum through such means as permitting the creation of community polling places at stations and commercial facilities. Given that similar measures are also stipulated in the Public Offices Election Law, no political parties should have objections to the bill. It is necessary to have the bill adopted promptly.
The opposition camp is insisting on tightening regulations on TV commercials broadcast during campaigns tied to a national referendum. In principle, such a campaign must be unrestricted. It is important for the ruling and opposition parties to discuss whether there is any room for mutual concessions on the matter, based on that basic principle.