National / Politics

Ruling bloc on verge of enacting security laws

by Reiji Yoshida and Mizuho Aoki

Staff Writers

The ruling camp was poised to enact contentious security laws early Saturday in the Upper House after shrugging off a range of no-confidence and censure motions filed against the government earlier in the day.

The battle over the bills, which started Wednesday evening in the upper chamber and saw fists fly on Thursday, was entering its final phase as enactment loomed.

Designed to expand the scope of the Self-Defense Forces’ operations overseas and reinforce Japan’s all-important military alliance with the United States, the legislation would allow Japan to engage in collective self-defense, or coming to the aid of an ally under armed attack, even if Japan itself is not under attack.

Critics say that, unless the Constitution is amended, the shift from Japan’s exclusively defense-oriented posture will break the supreme code and might end up draggging Japan into U.S.-related wars around the world.

The Liberal Democratic Party-Komeito ruling coalition was determined to pass the bills as quickly as possible, fearing a greater public furor if the vote drags on into a long weekend composed of three consecutive national holidays.

Although enactment was practically a given, opposition parties led by the Democratic Party of Japan continued to fight by causing procedural delays in the Diet.

Five opposition parties including Ishin no To (Japan Innovation Party) and the Japanese Communist Party, submitted a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet in the Lower House on Friday.

Under Diet rules, when this happens all procedures are suspended in both chambers because a vote on the motion takes precedence over all other business.

The ruling bloc, which holds a majority in both chambers, voted down the no-confidence motion.

But the voting process gave opposition leaders an opportunity to deliver a speech to the nation condemning the bills and Abe’s Cabinet as the session was televised live.

The ruling camp “forcibly voted for these unconstitutional bills . . . although they have failed to win the understanding of the people and a majority of the nation is opposed to them,” declared Yukio Edano, secretary general of DPJ, in a speech during a plenary session of the Lower House.

“The worst-ever bills in the postwar years were bulldozed in the worst-ever procedure. This is outrageous,” Edano said.

The opposition parties have said Thursday’s passage of the bills by the special security committee in the Upper House was invalid.

When Yoshitada Konoike, chairman of the committee, took a vote on the bills, his voice was inaudible above the din. Moreover, stenographers were unable to record his words, opposition lawmakers said.

The bills are designed to lift various constitutional restrictions on overseas operations by the Self-Defense Forces, including the long-standing ban on the use of collective defense.

They would also create a permanent law to allow Japan to dispatch troops in logistical support of a U.N.-authorized multinational force.

Abe has argued that passing the bills is essential to bolster the Japan-U.S. military alliance and thereby protect Japanese lives.

But recent media polls have shown that about 60 percent of voters oppose the bills, with 80 percent saying the government has yet to provide “sufficient explanation” about why they are needed.

Information from Kyodo added