The vice president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which is working on a proposal to amend the postwar Constitution for the first time, says the principle of civilian control of the Self-Defense Forces should be made clear through an addition to the war-renouncing Article 9.
“We should put in writing the relationship between (the SDF), the Cabinet and the Diet,” Masahiko Komura said in a recent interview.
Since its founding in 1955, the LDP has aimed to revise the Constitution, which was drawn up during the U.S.-led Occupation after World War II and came into force in 1947. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and like-minded lawmakers see the supreme charter as having been imposed on the Japanese people.
Komura is playing a central role in the process as an adviser on the party’s constitutional reform panel.
Abe suggested in May that an explicit mention of the status of the SDF be added to Article 9, while retaining the existing clauses that prohibit Japan from waging war or maintaining “war potential.”
Building on Abe’s proposal, Komura said civilian control should be ensured by new clauses stating that the prime minister has the ultimate command over the SDF and that the SDF can operate only within the boundaries of the law.
“One good way of writing it might be, ‘The prime minister, who is the head of the Cabinet, is the commander in chief (of the SDF),’ ” Komura said.
He said the party should consider proposing a requirement for the SDF’s activities to be approved by the Diet.
Komura also said it “would not be out of the question” to allow a conscience vote on an amendment proposal, as long as each party agrees to this during discussions of cross-party constitutional commissions of both houses of the Diet.
The Constitution requires any proposed amendment to first gain the votes of two-thirds of lawmakers in each chamber of the Diet, then a majority of votes in a nationwide referendum.
The idea of clarifying the SDF’s legal status in Article 9 appears to have potential supporters outside the LDP and its coalition partner, Komeito, including a number of lawmakers in the main opposition force, the Democratic Party.
“The more agreement there is, the better,” Komura said when asked about the possibility of the LDP consulting other parties before formulating its proposal.
“We need to have discussions with Komeito and the (pro-amendment opposition) Ishin no To,” he said.
He also said there should be “some form of talks” with the DP.
The LDP’s reform ambitions have been complicated by a recent drop in support for the party, manifested in its massive loss of seats in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election earlier this month. In a recent Kyodo News opinion survey, 54.8 percent of respondents opposed a constitutional amendment under the Abe administration, a sharp rise from 43.4 percent in May.
Komura said the party will endeavor to keep Abe’s desired timeline for constitutional reform.
Abe said in May he wants the revision to take effect by 2020, and last month called on the LDP to compile amendment proposals for discussion during an extraordinary Diet session likely to be convened this fall.
“We mustn’t give up on (doing) what should be done for the public’s sake,” Komura said. “We will carefully move forward toward our goal.”