National

SEALDs members' next step — launching a think tank

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

Members of the student group that ignited a massive wave of youth protests last summer against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s security bills are embarking on a new project.

Six members of Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy (SEALDs) have announced the launch of a think tank they say will take their activities to a new level.

Their immediate goal is to create what is tentatively dubbed “a law promoting constitutionalism and democracy.”

When Japan marked the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II this summer, “the government rammed the security bills through the Diet by disregarding the principle of constitutionalism and democracy,” Aki Okuda, the main representative of SEALDs, told a news conference Monday in Tokyo.

“Our purpose is to create a society where our dignity and freedom are protected and propose policies on a whole new level,” he said.

He was appointed as a board member of the think tank together with Koichi Nakano, a political science professor at Sophia University, and lawyer Takahisa Mizukami.

The think tank will be called ReDemos, short for Regarding “Demos” (Greek for “the common people”).

Other than legislative proposals, it will undertake a range of activities from offering analyses on the latest political developments through platforms such as the Internet to providing opportunities for citizens to debate politics.

Aside from Okuda, ReDemos will have five other core student members tasked with scrutinizing government policies and compiling suggestions for a batch of new laws. But the think tank also hopes to involve experts such as scholars and lawyers at every stage of its activities, Nakano said.

One of the most urgent tasks in store for ReDemos, Mizukami said, is to propose a law meant to restore constitutionalism and democracy in Japan in a bid to prevent a recurrence of the Abe administration’s heavy-handed passage of the security bills.

The contentious bills, which will enable the Self-Defense Forces to engage in collective defense overseas, drew criticism from scholars and lawyers for being “unconstitutional” under war-renouncing Article 9. The bills were bulldozed through the Diet and enacted in mid-September.

ReDemos’ envisioned law will call for the creation of a third-party institution within the Supreme Court that will assess the constitutionality of controversial legislation while it is still being debated in the Diet.

The suggestion is a dig at the Cabinet Legislation Bureau, a government institution that Mizukami said has rarely served its purpose, which is to scrutinize the unconstitutionality of government-backed bills before they are put before Cabinet meetings.

Other suggestions for the law include targeting government censorship of the media.

ReDemos’ members will unveil details of the proposed law as early as the spring and start lobbying lawmakers, Mizukami said.