SDP stance no surprise: peace, Article 9 and troop pullout from Iraq

by

The Social Democratic Party of Japan has long been an advocate of peace and of maintaining the war-renouncing Constitution — a platform it has no plans to deviate from for the July 11 House of Councilors election.

“The election will serve to decide whether Japan will continue to retain (the Constitution’s) Article 9 or become a nation — both in name and reality — that goes to war alongside the United States,” SDP leader Mizuho Fukushima said in a recent interview with The Japan Times.

“The SDP will not let the Constitution be amended, and it’s the SDP that can stop war,” Fukushima said, citing recent moves by both the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition force, to amend the Constitution, including Article 9, in the near future.

Citing the DPJ’s support of government-sponsored war-contingency legislation — the first postwar legal codes to define how Japan can respond to a military attack — Fukushima said the SDP must portray itself as a “third force” that reflects the voices of pacifists as well as minority opinions, at a time when Japan is moving toward a conservative two-party system.

Fukushima also demanded the immediate withdrawal of the Self-Defense Forces from Iraq, claiming the planned participation in a U.S.-led multinational force to be formed after the June 30 sovereignty transfer is unconstitutional.

SDF participation in the multinational force would infringe on the Constitution, as Article 9 renounces the use of force as means of settling international disputes, she said.

“How can (the government) send (the SDF) into the multinational force, when the Constitution hasn’t changed?” Fukushima asked. “This is a major turning point in Japan’s security policy.”

She also slammed the ruling coalition for “changing the pension system for the worse” by forcing through the Diet earlier this month reform bills aimed at reducing benefits and raising premiums.

The SDP wants the reform package scrapped and a new system set up by 2011 that integrates the existing programs for salaried and self-employed workers. To finance this, Fukushima said that instead of a consumption tax hike, the government should cut public works and other unnecessary expenditures and tap into pension reserve funds worth 147 trillion yen.

She meanwhile welcomed plans by Kiyomi Tsujimoto, a former SDP and House of Representatives member who received a suspended sentence for fraud in February, to run in the coming Upper House poll as an independent.

Fukushima said that Tsujimoto, who had pocketed the state-paid salary of two aides in name only, must want to serve as a foil to what she described as a right-leaning trend in the Diet.

Fukushima, who will run in the July poll as a proportional representation candidate, said the SDP hopes to have four proportional representation and three regional district candidates win.

The SDP, a minor party with only 11 total Diet seats, currently holds five in the upper chamber, two of which are up for grabs in the poll.