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Constitution panel resumes debate

The Yomiuri Shimbun After four months out of session, a House of Representatives panel on constitutional issues met Thursday to discuss such matters as extending the term of office for Diet members in a state of emergency.

The idea was debated at Thursday morning’s meeting of the lower house Commission on the Constitution — the first to be held since last November and the first in the current Diet session — in connection with issues related to voting and other political rights.

The Liberal Democratic Party insisted on amending the Constitution to create a provision regarding an extension of the term of office for legislatures, on the assumption that a national election could not be held in times of a natural disaster and other emergencies.

However, the leading opposition Democratic Party argued that the proposed change is not the kind of issue on which a conclusion can be reached in a simple manner.

LDP member Yoko Kamikawa told the panel that in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, local elections were postponed in disaster-hit areas. Citing that fact as an example, she emphasized, “If no measure is taken to extend the term of Diet members, it could result in an absence of Diet members representing quake-hit areas.”

In response, DP member Yukio Edano called for cautious discussions on the matter, saying, “There is a wide range of complicated issues to be examined.”

Goshi Hosono, also a DP member, expressed a positive stance on the issue, saying, “Promoting proper discussions and reaching a conclusion is one of the roles of the Diet.”

The contrast between the two DP members’ opinions appeared to illustrate a gap in members’ enthusiasm regarding the extension of Diet members’ term in an emergency.

Thursday’s session also addressed issues related to disparities in the values of a single vote among electoral districts.

Kamikawa said an increase in the number of lawmakers from urban areas will be an inevitable consequence of the decrease in regional populations. With this in mind, she said it will be necessary to abolish the integrated constituencies introduced for a House of Councillors election in 2016 and debate measures to deal with the one-vote-value issue, including amendment of the Constitution.

Edano rejected this contention, saying, “It is not appropriate to promote trivial discussions as a means of settling the integrated constituency problem.”Speech

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