There is mounting speculation that the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize may honor people fighting to protect Japan’s war-renouncing Constitution.
The prize is scheduled to be announced Friday.
The nomination is for “Japanese people who conserve Article 9,” which is understood to include all those who have upheld the article in its history.
The cause is now tipped to win, according to Kristian Berg Harpviken, director of the Peace Research Institute Oslo, an independent research institute.
Harpviken’s tips should be taken with a grain of salt as he has correctly predicted the Peace Prize only once in the past 10 years. However, he is a respected observer of the Nobel Committee and is regularly called on to comment on it for the world’s media.
The campaign for Article 9 was initiated by Naomi Takasu, a 37-year-old mother of two from Zama, Kanagawa Prefecture, who sent an email to the Norwegian Nobel Committee in January 2013.
Takasu explained that because she was too busy with children to participate in rallies or public meetings, she decided to act from home. She told the committee that she strongly supports Article 9 on the grounds that it helps protect her children.
Takasu was later joined in her effort by others in Zama and neighboring Sagamihara. They formed a team named the Organizing Committee for the Nobel Peace Prize for Article 9 of the Constitution.
The group collected around 24,000 signatures by August last year and sent its letter of nomination to the Nobel committee.
It received a response the following day. As the prize is only considered for people or organizations, not a text, the nomination was initially denied.
Takasu responded by changing the nomination to name the Japanese people standing up for Article 9. The committee accepted the nomination in April.
“I am surprised that so many people in Japan and overseas support the campaign,” said Yoshiaki Ishigaki, 73, who helps lead the group. “I hope this will help us win the prize and halt moves to amend the Constitution.”
Like-minded campaigners say the Nobel campaign has given their cause a boost.
Yoichi Komori, a University of Tokyo professor and secretary-general of the lobby group Kyujo no Kai (Association of Article 9), said the campaign has drawn attention from all over the world.
The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has ambitions to loosen restrictions on Japan’s use of force, namely those imposed by Article 9.
At a news conference Monday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga dismissed the chances of Article 9 being honored with the Nobel Peace Prize.
But one Cabinet member predicted it would cause trouble, saying if the award were to come, “the Liberal Democratic Party will be doomed.”
“We don’t know what kind of impact it might have on the political administration,” said the minister, who did not want to be quoted by name. “I don’t believe it will happen, but you never know what life brings.”
An LDP official in charge of the constitutional revision, however, said that if the prize honors those supporting Article 9, it would fuel the civil movement to preserve the Constitution.
Meanwhile, LDP Secretary-General Sadakazu Tanigaki, known for his dovish beliefs, said reaction within the ruling party is mixed.
“The fact it has been nominated is welcome,” he said at a news conference Monday. “I can’t say I don’t want them to win.”
Komeito, the LDP’s junior coalition partner, likewise expressed hope that the citizens will win the prize.
“If they win, it would stimulate the pro-Constitution movement,” a senior Komeito member said. He added it would also discourage the LDP from upgrading the Self-Defense Forces into a full-fledged military.