What political parties have to offer

The campaign for the coming Upper House election will officially kick off July 4, with voting scheduled for July 21. Preparations must include each political party clearly expressing its election promises so that voters can make decisions with conviction.

Although the Liberal Democratic Party may play down its call to change Article 96 of the Constitution as part of its campaign platform, the issue should be considered a key one in the coming election, because altering the clause — which is designed to prevent an imprudent revision of the Constitution — would undermine the foundation of constitutional democracy.

The change would downgrade the status of the Constitution almost to the level of ordinary law, making it easier to weaken or scrap the most fundamental principle of sovereignty resting with the people, the no-war principle as well as crucial constitutional rights — freedom of thought, speech and expression, freedom of assembly and association, freedom from arbitrary arrests, etc.

Article 96 says that amendments to the Constitution must be initiated by the Diet through a concurring vote of at least two-thirds of all the members of each house, then they must be submitted to the people for ratification, which requires an affirmative vote by a majority of all votes cast in a special referendum.

The LDP, the Japan Restoration Party and Your Party want to change the article so that amendments to the Constitution can be initiated with a concurring simple majority vote in each House.

Another important issue is the evaluation of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic policy, which focuses on massive monetary easing by the Bank of Japan and has pushed up stock prices and caused the yen to weaken. Voters need to carefully consider whether Mr. Abe’s policy will increase employment, raise workers’ wages and revitalize local economies.

They also need to consider whether Japan’s participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade scheme, as promoted by Mr. Abe, will help the economy and truly enhance people’s well-being. LDP members from rural areas oppose the TPP. It would confuse voters if the LDP as a whole pushed the TPP in the face of fairly strong opposition to it within the party itself.

Voters also must determine whether Mr. Abe’s support for nuclear power generation and the export of nuclear power plant technology is appropriate. The LDP shows an internal split on the matter. The LDP’s Fukushima prefectural chapter calls for abolition of all 10 reactors inside the prefecture.

In Okinawa Prefecture, all of the LDP candidates will call for moving the functions of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma out of the prefecture, while the LDP’s official position is to build a replacement facility at Henoko, Okinawa Island. These cases of duplicity within the LDP are an insult to voters.

The Democratic Party of Japan, the Japan Communist Party, the People’s Life Party and the Social Democratic Party are against changing Article 96 of the Constitution. If these opposition parties want to prevent the ruling coalition from controlling the Upper House, they must find a way to cooperate with each other.