LDP mulls allowing public officials to voice views on changing Constitution


The ruling coalition may conditionally ease a law that prevents public officials from engaging in political activities so they can take part in debates on constitutional revision, sources said Saturday.

Police officers and judges would continue to be subject to existing regulations because they are required to maintain strict political neutrality at all times, the sources said.

A law enacted in 2007 requires that the Constitution be amended via a national referendum but also compels the state to take necessary legislative measures to allow public officials to express their views.

The Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition ally, New Komeito, have decided in principle to jointly submit a bill to revise this law to the extraordinary Diet session to be convened Oct. 15. The two parties will soon begin discussions to hash out the details, according to the sources.

However, the two parties, which have already agreed to propose lowering the voting age to 18 for national referendums, remain at odds over the participation of public officials in debates about changing the Constitution.

New Komeito is seeking to relax the restrictions on public officials to promote more open-minded debate on the issue. But the LDP remains cautious due to concerns that government workers’ and public school teachers’ labor unions, which back opposition parties and oppose constitutional amendment, would have greater influence.

The latest development appears to be a concession by the LDP so that both ruling parties can submit the bill at an early date.

  • zer0_0zor0

    Seems to go against the ‘public servant’ status of such individuals.

    Their positions are as functionaries for carrying out the policy enacted according to the democratic process. If they interfere with that process, there is a potential for the system to become corrupted and dysfunctional.

    That said, since some public officials perform roles that include keeping the public informed, there should not be a problem in their disseminating official views that can be considered during the debate by the public in the form of reports, such as “white papers” and the like.

    The input of officials should be limited and debate among members of the citizenry insulated from any form of advocacy by those in positions of public authority, as the potential for conflict of interest is prevalent. If the public officials end up setting the agenda, the government would gradually be transformed from a democratic system that serves the public will expressed through the democratic process to a system in which bureaucratic officialdom reigns supreme, unchecked by the public through the democratic process.

  • The idea of anyone being ‘political neutrality’ strikes me as a meaningless expectation. Is this not just another way of ‘expecting them to be conservative’? Objectivity does not mean having no appraisal of facts & arguments; it means having a rational view, and the only way to establish that is by ‘testing ideas’, and that means articulating them. That means all the time; not just when the PM wants it, or from whomever he wants it.