Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has arranged a new lineup of Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers who will vitalize constitutional debate. The LDP must move Diet debate on the Constitution forward by tenaciously seeking common ground with other parties.
Abe will reappoint former Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda as chief of the LDP Headquarters for the Promotion of the Revision of the Constitution. He plans to appoint former Diet Affairs Committee Chairman Tsutomu Sato as chairman of the Commission on the Constitution in the House of Representatives.
When Hosoda formerly held the post in 2018, he put together proposals on amendment to four provisions of the Constitution, including one on revision of Article 9 to add a legal base for the Self-Defense Forces. He has a personal connection with Kazuo Kitagawa, chairman of the Komeito research council on the Constitution. Sato has personal connections with lawmakers of opposition parties.
Hosoda’s predecessor Hakubun Shimomura criticized the opposition parties severely for their passive stance toward holding sessions of a commission on the Constitution, thereby drawing a strong rejection from them. The planned appointment of experienced lawmakers, who both have a reputation for their coordination abilities, to key posts in the party and the Diet is aimed at breaking the stalemate in constitutional debate.
Referring to constitutional revision during a news conference, Abe said he “will achieve it without fail.” Two years remain before the expiration of his term as LDP president, a post that ensures the holder of the prime ministership. He likely expressed his determination to pave the way to constitutional revision while he is in office.
In the House of Councillors election in July, the ruling parties and other parties that are positive toward constitutional amendment, including Nippon Ishin no Kai, could not hold on to two-thirds of the upper house seats, the threshold for initiating constitutional revision in the Diet.
Prime Minister Abe has expressed his idea of not sticking to LDP proposals on constitutional revision. The LDP is called on to take a flexible stance with a view to building a wide-ranging agreement.
Activate Diet debate
Komeito, which is the LDP’s coalition partner, has continued to take a cautious stance toward constitutional debate. Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi has stressed that it is “necessary to work toward promoting debate while building an agreement.”
If the ruling parties fail to go along with each other, it is impossible to expect progress in constitutional debate.
The LDP and Komeito should coordinate their views on which subjects should be taken up preferentially or how to proceed with the commissions.
It is also essential for the parties to reconcile their views on revision of Article 9, which will become a focal point. Komeito is passive about revision of Article 9, insisting that many of the people “do not regard the Self-Defense Forces as unconstitutional.” However, not a few constitutional scholars assert that the SDF is unconstitutional.
China has been beefing up its military strength while North Korea has been pushing ahead its nuclear and missile development. It is highly significant to stipulate in the Constitution the presence and roles of the SDF, which bears the burden of protecting Japan.
It is imperative for the LDP to meticulously explain to Komeito the aims of revising Article 9, thus winning over the coalition partner.
The lower house Commission on the Constitution has not held free discussions for nearly two years.
The opposition parties have called for strengthening control over TV ads when a national referendum is held on constitutional revision. It is problematic if this is aimed at postponing constitutional debate.
They should rather play a role of exploring in-depth discussions by presenting at the commission on the Constitution their stances toward LDP proposals, as well as their own views on constitutional revision.