National / Politics

Kibo no To leadership contenders detail opposing views on security laws and Constitutional revision

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

Two candidates vying to become the co-head of Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike’s Kibo no To (Party of Hope) reiterated Thursday their contrasting views on security and the pacifist Constitution — key points of debate that could kill or preserve the conservative governor’s founding ideals.

In a debate held in Tokyo, former Democratic Party lawmakers Yuichiro Tamaki and Hiroshi Ogushi emphasized their stances on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s contentious security laws — enacted in summer 2015 amid outcries by the opposition — that have significantly expanded the legal scope of overseas operations by the Self-Defense Forces.

Koike, a former Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker who supports the laws, sparked controversy last month by imposing an ideological test on DP lawmakers fleeing to her party ahead of the Oct. 22 general election, threatening to deny their membership if they remained opposed to the legislation.

Ogushi, the more left-leaning candidate of the two, said he will seek to make it clear that the party opposes the laws should he win the leadership election, which is slated for Friday, effectively overriding Koike’s previous policy.

The party’s position that the laws are “unacceptable,” Ogushi argued, was made clear by the fact that Koike had earlier agreed to kill a mention of “support” for them in a document that DP members were forced to sign as a condition to join the party.

Tamaki said he was not entirely opposed to the laws. Instead of slamming them as unacceptable, he said the party should try to “upgrade” them by proposing revisions where necessary.

On the pacifist Constitution, Tamaki said the revision of war-renouncing Article 9 — a longtime Abe goal — is within the realm of possibility, while Ogushi said he was dead-set against any tweak.

Tamaki particularly took issue with the supreme law’s current failure to codify the SDF and the permissible scope of its activity — a situation that he says has granted the Abe government “excessive” leeway to interpret what the military can do.

Ogushi agreed that there should be an “active discussion” over Article 9, but he was nonetheless convinced that any change to the pivotal clause is “unnecessary.”

While debating solutions to the looming demographic crisis, the candidates also expressed different stances toward the idea of further opening up Japan to foreign workers.

Ogushi espoused a more cautious approach.

“The acceptance of foreign workers is obviously an issue that merits due consideration, but I think there is a limit as to how rapidly we can accelerate our effort to attract them” when considering “our society and culture,” he said.

Tamaki, who offered more details on his stance, said Japan should end its long-standing reliance on a “backdoor” source of labor, namely the controversial technical internship program critics say is rife with human rights violations.

“In the countryside, industries such as nursing and agriculture can no longer survive without the help of foreign labor,” he said. “Full-fledged immigration may be difficult. But on the condition we specify industries as well as countries that we’re particularly on good terms with, we can at least debate bringing in foreign workers more openly, outside of the current technical internship program.”

Meanwhile, both candidates said they were serious about wrenching power from Abe’s ruling bloc. Both share a goal of winning as many seats as possible in the 2019 Upper House election.