As Diet debate on constitutional revision draws near, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party decided Tuesday to put a freeze on its 2012 draft constitution, which critics have slammed as overly conservative and reminiscent of Japan’s wartime military government.
The move amounts to a major compromise on the part of the LDP, underlining its effort to allay mounting resistance from opposition parties to the controversial document. The LDP aims to make the discussions on revising the pacifist Constitution, a longtime dream of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, as smooth as possible.
“We have decided not to submit the 2012 draft constitution” to the Commission on the Constitution, a special Diet panel charged with discussing a rewrite of the decades-old supreme law, said LDP lawmaker Okiharu Yasuoka.
The announcement was made during a meeting of the party’s Headquarters for the Promotion of Revision to the Constitution, of which Yasuoka is chairman. It defined the basic stance the LDP will likely take throughout the debate at the Diet constitutional panel, which is expected to kick off during the current Diet session after a one-year hiatus.
Yasuoka described the draft as clarifying the party’s tentative stance in 2012, explaining that Tuesday’s decision was driven in part by a major change in LDP membership over the last four years.
Still, he emphasized that the party will not scrap the 2012 draft altogether, and rejected the main opposition Democratic Party’s demand that it do so.
The draft, Yasuoka said, will remain an “official document” of the LDP to which its lawmakers are welcome to refer when drawing up new proposals.
“It’s not like we’re consigning it to oblivion,” he told reporters after the meeting.
It is unclear at this point whether the LDP will compile a new draft constitution from scratch or tweak the existing version, he added.
The 2012 draft, compiled by the LDP during its brief hiatus from power, contains proposals critics say border on reactionary.
It proposes elevating the Self-Defense Forces into a full-fledged military and reinstating reigning emperors as the “head of state,” an apparent promotion from the current status as the “symbol” of the state.
It also rewrote the preamble, including to trumpet the value of patriotism. The draft even suggested that individual freedom should take a back seat to public order.
During a faceoff with Abe during a Diet session earlier this month, DP President Renho decried the LDP draft and its language, which says “families must support each other,” dubbing it a sinister harbinger of cuts in social security and welfare programs. The state could use it, she said, as an excuse to skirt its own responsibility to help those in need.
The landslide victory of the LDP-Komeito ruling coalition in the July Upper House election enabled forces in favor of constitutional amendment to secure a two-thirds majority in both Diet chambers — a first since the end of World War II.
The situation gives Abe leverage to call a national referendum on revising — as distinct from reinterpreting — the U.S.-drafted national charter, which is frowned upon by nationalists as a symbol of Japanese “subservience” to America.
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