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INTERVIEW: DPFP chief seeks constitution debate not focused on Article 9

Tokyo, Aug. 15 (Jiji Press) — The opposition Democratic Party for the People wants to pursue discussions on constitutional reform that are not based on the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s four-point proposal, including changes to war-renouncing Article 9, party head Yuichiro Tamaki has said.

Speaking to Jiji Press in a recent interview, Tamaki laid out several amendment proposals that his party hopes to formalize given the right political environment, in order to raise them for discussion at the commissions on the Constitution at both chambers of the Diet, or Japan’s parliament.

“There is plenty to discuss other than Article 9,” he said. “I’d like discussions to be wide-ranging and rich, instead of focusing merely on Article 9.”

One such proposal involves revisions to improve the separation of powers. This requires limiting the power of the prime minister to dissolve the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of the Diet, for a snap election and setting a deadline for the cabinet to convene a Diet session when requested to do so by the legislative branch, according to the lawmaker.

Another concerns promoting diversity, through a revision to the Constitution’s clause on marriage so as not to deny same-sex marriage, and reforming the relationship between the state and local governments to meet the latter’s demands flexibly in issues such as rights to establish ordinances and levy taxes.

Tamaki also called for a provision to ensure food security, inspired by a clause added to the Swiss Constitution in 2017.

As for the LDP’s proposals for revising the Constitution, the DPFP chief said the ruling party’s four-point plan should be taken off the discussion table.

“Clarifying the Self-Defense Forces (in Article 9) and including an emergency clause are problematic,” he said. “The idea that clarifying the organization’s name while leaving its powers and responsibilities unchanged is, to be clear, a lie.”

The opposition party leader warned that the LDP must work with opposition forces to come to a consensus on constitutional revision, especially after the ruling bloc and other pro-revision forces lost the two-thirds supermajority in the House of Councillors, the upper chamber, necessary to trigger a referendum.

“(The LDP) should first begin with points the ruling and opposition camps can agree on,” he said. “Calm discussions can be conducted if both sides compromise. I’d like those in power to be mindful of their actions, but many citizens do not want to see the opposition not take a seat at the negotiating table, either.”

Tamaki cautioned Prime Minister Shinzo Abe against getting DPFP lawmakers around to his side in order to secure the two-thirds majority in the Upper House.

“If they barely scrape together a two-thirds majority, the constitutional revision will be labeled as half-baked by opposition parties and rejected in a national referendum,” Tamaki said. “(The prime minister) must gain a consensus among the major opposition parties.”

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