The Yomiuri ShimbunContinually discussing the Constitution is one of the roles of the legislature. Toward the next Diet session, the ruling and opposition parties must sincerely prepare an environment in which constructive discussions can take place.
One of the key issues in the recent House of Councillors election was whether to advance constitutional debate. With the Liberal Democratic Party maintaining a certain number of seats, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said, “It’s time to start full-fledged discussions in the Diet.”
The House of Representatives Commission on the Constitution has not held free discussions since November 2017, sessions in which each political party expresses their opinions straightforwardly. This is a grave situation.
Last year, the LDP compiled a proposal on four items, including stipulating the legal grounds for the Self-Defense Forces and establishing state-of-emergency provisions. The proposal reflected the prime minister’s intentions, but, following the upper house election, he has indicated that he will not stick to the idea.
This is probably because the forces that favor constitutional amendment, such as both the LDP and Komeito, as well as Nippon Ishin no Kai, failed to maintain the two-thirds majority needed for the Diet to initiate procedures for revising the Constitution.
It is understandable that the prime minister has a policy to respond flexibly so as to win support from as many parties as possible.
The LDP must carefully debate the Constitution without unnecessarily stirring up confrontation with the opposition parties. It is important for the LDP to first arrange a lineup within the party before persistently coordinating with each party to prepare for the restart of the commission’s meeting.
Stick to election pledges
What is concerning is how the opposition parties will react. It is true that the stance of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and other parties that they would not participate in discussions under the Abe administration has prevented the commission from holding regular meetings.
In their campaign pledges for the upper house election, both the CDPJ and the Democratic Party for the People clearly stated that they will discuss the Constitution. It is unacceptable to break their promises.
After the upper house election, DPFP leader Yuichiro Tamaki indicated that he would draw up a draft proposal for revising the Constitution and discuss it in talks with the prime minister. However, once opposition emerged within the party, he took a step back. As the leader of the party, he should strive to persuade the members of his party and consolidate their opinions.
Both the CDPJ and the DPFP are considering forming a joint parliamentary group. The two parties plan to cooperate in having committee posts and allocating time for questioning in a bid to counter the LDP’s dominance.
The CDPJ has urged the DPFP to support the party’s constitutional ideas and energy policy. If the CDPJ takes the lead in constitutional debates, concerns cannot be dispelled regarding whether the deliberations in the commission will advance. The two parties should confirm their policies of discussing the Constitution as they pledged to do.
Instead of entirely focusing on criticizing the administration, the two parties must compile their views on the LDP’s proposal and their own proposals for constitutional amendment.