The Yomiuri ShimbunThis is the fifth and final installment of a series.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is also president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, formed a new lineup following the House of Representatives election in hopes of making progress on constitutional revision.
Abe retained Masahiko Komura, who did not run in the lower house election, as LDP vice president, and appointed Hiroyuki Hosoda to the vacant position of chairman of the party’s Headquarters for the Promotion of Revision to the Constitution. Hosoda is a former chairman of the party’s General Council and heads a party faction to which Abe formerly belonged.
Abe has high hopes that these two veterans, whom he believes hold views similar to his own, can form a consensus among ruling and opposition parties.
On Dec. 6, Abe held talks with Komura at the Prime Minister’s Office.
“I made this proposal [on revising Article 9] with the intention of creating a stir. Everything else I leave in your hands,” Abe told Komura.
Komura, who was in charge of negotiations with Komeito regarding security-related laws, also displayed confidence. “Mr. Hosoda is doing a thorough job within the party. As for Komeito, I don’t think it would refuse to exchange opinions in the current situation,” Komura said.
The LDP is most concerned about the attitude of coalition partner Komeito. If progress is made in consolidating opinions within the LDP, the next point of focus will be negotiations with Komeito.
According to a source, one reason the LDP only summarized points of discussion on constitutional revision instead of going so far as to compile draft revisions, which had been expected by the end of last year, was because the party “was giving consideration to Komeito, which is seeking careful discussions.”
As if in response to such consideration, Komeito decided to resume discussions at its constitutional research committee as early as this month.
A Komeito executive said, “If the LDP comes to us saying, ‘What about this [proposal]?’ we’ll say what should be said.”
The LDP also has high expectations for Nippon Ishin no Kai and Kibo no To (Party of Hope), which have taken positive stances on constitutional revision. Ishin emphasizes free education as a pillar of its draft constitutional revisions, while Kibo pledged in the lower house election to discuss the proper state of the Constitution in the current era, including concerning the existence of the Self-Defense Forces.
At a meeting of directors of the lower house’s Commission on the Constitution on Dec. 6, Gen Nakatani, who serves as the LDP chief of directors of the commission, called for holding commission sessions at an early date. But the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and the Japanese Communist Party disagreed, and nothing was decided.
However, Shinichiro Furumoto of Kibo remained in the room after the meeting and told commission directors from the LDP and Ishin, “If an agreement is made at the commission regarding what will be decided by when, we will discuss the matter in more detail within the party.”
They are said to have agreed that Article 9 would also be a topic for future discussions. One of the attendees said, “It became the scene where the LDP, Kibo and Ishin confirmed they will cooperate.”
Division within Komeito, Kibo
However, each party has their own reasons for uncertainty.
Within Komeito, levels of enthusiasm vary regarding debates on constitutional revision prompted by Abe.
Some party members, including Vice Representative Kazuo Kitagawa, who is in contact with Komura, are seen as supporting such discussions.
But Secretary General Yoshihisa Inoue maintained a cautious stance, reiterating at a press conference on Nov. 24 the party’s opinion that “it is not a situation in which if the SDF is not stipulated in the Constitution, there would be some trouble.”
Conditions within Kibo are also unstable. Hiroshi Ogushi, a lower house lawmaker who ran in the party’s coleader election in November, clearly said, “Revision of Article 9 is unnecessary at this stage.” How to handle constitutional revisions could trigger a split in the party.
There is also the issue of how to close the distance with the CDPJ, the largest opposition party. CDPJ leader Yukio Edano has clarified his opposition to Article 9-related revisions, but has left room for discussions regarding restrictions on the prime minister’s power to dissolve the lower house.
There are voices within the LDP that it is important to bring the CDPJ to the table by also taking up issue of restricting the prime minister’s power regarding dissolution.
In a lecture on Oct. 27, Komura said, “It is desirable for [a consensus] to somehow be formed that includes the LDP, Komeito and Ishin, as well as, if possible, Kibo and the CDPJ.”