The Social Democratic Party is upholding its longtime defense of the Constitution, especially war-renouncing Article 9, in its campaign for the June 25 Lower House election, SDP Chairwoman Takako Doi said.

Doi said she is concerned that the constitutional research panels set up in each chamber of the Diet in January may give momentum to the revisionists’ movement and eventually lead to the scrapping of Article 9.

The panels are to submit separate reports after five years of debate, but some politicians have suggested that they draft an alternative Constitution in about two years, Doi told The Japan Times.

Sensing that the Constitution is in jeopardy, Doi said, “It is becoming all the more important to increase the number of politicians (in the Diet) who believe in protecting the Constitution.”

For Doi, this translates into boosting the number of SDP lawmakers in the Lower House from the 14 the party had before the chamber was dissolved for Sunday’s election — no easy task, since the party’s ranks have been steadily declining over the past decade.

The SDP’s sway on the political scene shrank drastically after dozens of its lawmakers defected to the Democratic Party of Japan when it was formed in 1996.

Against this backdrop, the results of Sunday’s election are expected to greatly affect the party’s future. Doi said the SDP’s target is to secure 21 seats, the minimum number a party must have to be able to submit bills to the chamber.

“We must stick to regular campaign tactics and show an unwavering attitude on our various policies,” said Doi, a former Lower House speaker.

She blamed the recent public distrust in politics on fickle lawmakers who go back on their stated beliefs overnight, Doi added.

As for the economy, she criticized the current government for its huge public works spending and stressed the need to increase welfare-related expenditures to support society’s disadvantaged.

“Japan’s social welfare system is far behind that of European countries,” Doi said, adding that the government should incorporate into its budget more outlays for schemes to prevent unemployment and create a substantial safety net for the jobless.

Contrary to her hopes, however, the Diet enacted laws during the last ordinary session to promote company breakups and encourage corporate restructuring, which will make it easier for companies to lay off employees, she said.

“Major companies are sacrificing smaller firms and using them as stepping stones in order to survive,” she charged, describing such methods as a form of bullying that society should not condone.

In small and medium-size cities nationwide, shops based in local districts have been forced to shut down or merge with major stores in recent years, she said.

Although gross domestic product rose 0.5 percent in fiscal 1999, the first positive growth in three years, the people do not feel their lives are improving, Doi said, citing the high unemployment rate and low private consumption.

Although the government has been taking steps to steer the economy toward recovery for the past three years, it remains troubled, proof that the government’s policies have failed, she said.

“We cannot say the economy has recovered until people can have hope for the future,” Doi said.

She vowed to make every effort to prevent the three parties in the ruling coalition from again holding a majority in the chamber and to ensure Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori is ousted.

The SDP leader did not clarify whether her party will team up with other opposition forces to create an alternative government if the ruling camp fails to secure a majority in the Lower House.

“It all depends on the election,” Doi said. “For the time being, I will do my utmost to increase the SDP’s presence in the Lower House.”