Poll finds Constitution revision popular

90% of ruling bloc members polled favor changes; DPJ leaning same way

More than 90 percent of lawmakers in the ruling bloc who responded to a survey want the Constitution revised, and a majority of them want the war-renouncing supreme law to recognize the Self-Defense Forces, according to a Kyodo News poll released Monday.

Just 225 of the 727 Diet members responded to the survey, which was conducted earlier this month. It found that 80 percent of respondents favoring a constitutional revision said it should be done within five years.

The survey also shows the Democratic Party of Japan, the main opposition force, is deeply divided over amending the Constitution, with 66 percent of DPJ respondents favoring an amendment.

The results reflect growing calls within both the ruling bloc, dominated by the Liberal Democratic Party, and the DPJ for a constitutional change. The code has remained unaltered throughout its 57-year history.

Of the 88 respondents from the ruling bloc, which includes New Komeito and the New Conservative Party, 82 said they favor amendments.

In all, 140 lawmakers, or 62 percent of those polled, said the Constitution should be amended, and 85 said it should not.

Of the amendment backers in the coalition, 50 lawmakers want the Constitution revised within five years, while 16 said it should be changed within two to three years.

On what should be amended, 60 coalition lawmakers favoring a revision said the Constitution should be changed to give legal standing to the SDF.

The SDF’s legal basis is sometimes disputed under Article 9, which declares that “land, sea and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained.”

Thirty-five of the ruling bloc members favoring amendment said the SDF should be allowed to engage in collective security, which would allow Japan to attack another nation warring with an ally.

No respondents from New Komeito, one of the two junior partners in the LDP-led ruling bloc, favored changing the Constitution to allow Japan to take part in collective security.

Thirty-eight lawmakers from the same group said the Constitution should be amended to include new concepts on human rights, while 30 said it should be revised to make future amendments easier.

Sixteen of the ruling bloc lawmakers favoring amendment supported revising the Constitution to divide the country into fewer administrative regions and provide those with greater autonomy. The arrangement would replace the current 47 prefectures.

Other minor proposals included making grant provisions for private schools explicit, electing the prime minister through a popular vote and making the Emperor, currently the national symbol, into the official head of state.

Those opposing constitutional amendments in the ruling camp included former Foreign Minister Yohei Kono and Seiichi Ota, ex-chief of the former Management and Coordination Agency, which is now part of the public management ministry.

Kono said in his reply that there there is no problem with the application of Article 9, although views opposing it do exist as a legal issue.

Of the 15 lawmakers polled from New Komeito, which recently decided to advocate constitutional amendments to have environmental and privacy rights included, 13 approved amending the code. They include party chief Takenori Kanzaki.

Tetsuzo Fuyushiba, the party’s secretary general, opposed the move, citing a lack of public support for the issue.

Of the 70 lawmakers from the DPJ and the Liberal Party who responded to the survey, 52 supported constitutional changes, with 25 favoring the enshrinement of new human rights.

All 55 respondents from the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party opposed changes, arguing that the pacifism expressed in the Constitution is an advanced notion that should be guarded.

The survey was taken ahead of the compilation next month of an interim report by the Research Commission on the Constitution in the House of Representatives, a panel that has debated the issue for nearly three years.

The poll was conducted between Oct. 15 and Oct. 24. Responses were obtained from lawmakers in both chambers of the Diet — 67 from the LDP, 53 from the DPJ, 33 from the JCP, 22 from the SDP, 17 from the Liberal Party, 15 from New Komeito, six from the NCP, five from the Independents’ Club and seven unaffiliated lawmakers.