Alarmed by what they charge as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s lack of commitment to constitutionalism, a group of lawyers from around the country sent him a reminder of the principles of the Constitution — accompanied by chocolates — just in time for Valentine’s Day on Friday.
The self-styled “group of junior lawyers defending tomorrow’s freedom” sent Abe a copy of “Kenpo,” a textbook on Japan’s constitutional law by Nobuyoshi Ashibe, a University of Tokyo professor emeritus.
Group members said they decided to send the gift after Abe delivered policy speeches in the Diet mocking the principles of constitutionalism that restrict state power to ensure the rights and freedoms of individuals.
At a Lower House Budget Committee session on Feb. 3, Abe said that “the idea that the Constitution is intended to limit the power of the state is an old-fashioned view held at the time when a monarch was governing the country with absolute power.”
He also claimed that today the Constitution should be considered a set of laws indicating the direction and goals for the country and shaping its ideology.
“It will be me who bears full responsibility,” Abe said in a speech Tuesday, referring to the issue of altering the government’s interpretation of the Constitution to enable the application of the right to collective self-defense.
He stressed that he “will take it upon (himself) to respond to the government’s stance and seek the public’s opinion in elections.” He also said that public opinion, “not the director general of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau,” would guide him.
“I was shocked to hear the prime minister speak about the concept of constitutionalism, which is shared by all democratic countries, as if it was a relic from the past,” said 33-year-old Itsuki Kurosawa, a former lawyer and the group’s co-leader.
Kurosawa pointed out that the prime minister, who appears to be convinced that “the fact that he has been elected by the nation enables him to change the interpretation of the Constitution by himself” lacks understanding of legal procedures.
“Does he really have the basic knowledge required to serve as prime minister?” she asked.
The group decided to present Abe with Ashibe’s “Kenpo,” a popular university textbook, in response to a statement he made to the Diet last March.
During the session, asked whether he knew of a constitutional law expert, Abe reportedly responded that he didn’t know his name.
In a letter enclosed in the package sent Friday, the group accused the prime minister of lacking an understanding of the concept of constitutionalism.
The members wrote that “if his understanding is insufficient, he is not able to strengthen partnerships with other countries, which is the core value of the principle of establishment of the rule of law.”