After a 17-month hiatus, a Lower House panel on amending the pacifist Constitution resumed deliberations Thursday, a breakthrough in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s long-stalled effort to revise the national charter.
Thursday’s debate by the panel zeroed in on the long-standing assertion by conservative forces that Japan’s supreme law was “imposed” by the Allied Powers in the aftermath of World War II and therefore devoid of the nation’s own will — a logic often used to justify an amendment.
Lawmaker Gen Nakatani, who represented the majority Liberal Democratic Party on the panel, said: “It is an incontrovertible fact that the GHQ (General Headquarters of the Allied Powers) intervened to draft the Constitution.”
Nakatani then affirmed the party’s position that a “consensus must be built” among the public to revise the Constitution, proposing an upgrade of the Self-Defense Forces.
The Diet panel, established in 2007 with the aim of discussing a rewrite of the U.S.-drafted charter, entered a lull in June last year following turmoil over controversial security bills pushed by the Abe government.
At the time, three prominent scholars invited to the panel unanimously denounced the bills — which the ruling coalition later steamrolled through the Diet — as unconstitutional in a blow for Abe that further emboldened the opposition.
The rebooting of the panel, known as the Commission on the Constitution, comes as the prospect of constitutional amendment looms larger than ever.
In a postwar first, the sweeping victory by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party-Komeito coalition in July’s Upper House election gives the parties — along with other conservative peers — enough seats to put constitutional changes to a national referendum.
On Thursday, Nakatani’s critique of the Constitution revealed a gap in perception between the LDP and its partner, Komeito.
Lawmaker Kazuo Kitagawa of Komeito rebuffed the argument that the Constitution was solely the brainchild of the Allied Powers. He quoted Shigeru Yoshida, who served as prime minister in the aftermath of the war, as saying that GHQ officials “never once came across as overbearing” and were willing to heed requests from the Japanese side.
“We can’t agree that it was imposed” by the U.S. side, Kitagawa said.
Although the panel’s resumption symbolized a step forward for Abe’s effort to revise the Constitution, no significant progress appears in the offing.
Political wrangling over a bill to ratify the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement delayed the panel’s revival by weeks, with the ongoing extraordinary Diet session to wrap up before the end of the year.
Lawmaker Yasushi Adachi, of the conservative opposition Nippon Ishin no Kai, accused the DP of causing the disruption and demanded the party undergo “thorough soul-searching” over the way it boycotted the TPP deliberations.
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