The Yomiuri Shimbun It is important for the government to quickly rescue and support people affected by a massive earthquake and other great disasters, in accordance with the Constitution. Discussions should be continued from that point of view.
The Liberal Democratic Party’s Headquarters for the Promotion of Revision to the Constitution has coordinated ideas regarding a proposed provision for a state of emergency. The party’s view is that an exceptional measure would be taken to extend the terms of membership in the House of Representatives from four years and in the House of Councillors from six years, both prescribed by the Constitution, in the event that a national election cannot be held due to a major disaster.
In the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake seven years ago, operations at local governments in disaster-stricken areas were paralyzed, making it extremely difficult to confirm the safety of local residents. The Diet established a special law to postpone a total of 68 regional elections involving 57 local governments.
If a great disaster occurs in such situations as immediately before the expiry of lawmakers’ terms, it would make it impossible to conduct a national election in an extensive area, which could lead to the absence of Diet members representing disaster-hit regions. To avert such a situation and have democracy function properly, it is reasonable to include a clause in the Constitution to extend the term of a Diet member.
The proposed emergency provision includes shoring up the power of the government. If and when a Diet session cannot be convened due to “an extraordinary and massive disaster,” the clause would permit the government to establish an emergency ordinance, adopt measures regarding budgetary expenditures and take other steps.
It is said that there is a 70 percent possibility of an earthquake occurring with its focus just below Tokyo within 30 years. If this country falls into a situation in which a Diet session cannot be convened, it could cause delays in creating necessary laws and hinder efforts to extend assistance and promote post-disaster reconstruction.
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Given this, it is reasonable to allow the Diet to establish an emergency ordinance and reinforce the Cabinet’s authority to manage crises.
The Disaster Countermeasures Basic Law states that if the prime minister declares a disaster emergency, it is possible to enact an emergency ordinance whose application is limited to four matters, including the distribution of daily necessities and price controls.
The LDP’s proposal is aimed at writing an emergency ordinance into the Constitution, thereby facilitating an environment in which the government can establish such an ordinance without hesitation.
It is necessary to promote a wide range of discussions regarding the details of matters to be dealt with under an emergency ordinance, based on a highly developed financial system and social diversification.
Regarding the fact that the proposal limits the state of emergency to a great disaster, some within the LDP argue that emergencies should include a foreign armed attack.
It is indispensable to respond to a military contingency in a seamless manner, depending on the criticality of the situation. To make thorough preparations, it is also essential to consider including a military contingency in the list of emergency situations.
The LDP’s constitutional amendment draft of 2012 stated that everyone must be subject to directions issued by the government and public institutions to protect the lives and property of people. The party decided not to incorporate limitations on private rights into its latest proposal. This is because the LDP judged it would be difficult to gain the understanding of Komeito and others for such measures.
Some also insist that the Constitution include a clause that would impose limitations on private rights, so that rescue and support activities could be carried out smoothly, specifying the scope of the rights to be limited and the duration of such limitations. In-depth discussions should be promoted further.