National / Politics

LDP backs away from election promise of 'free education' election promise

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

Ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers tasked with drawing up proposed constitutional amendments approved a plan Tuesday that does not include a guarantee to make all education free.

The LDP’s decision comes as the party continues to debate proposed revisions, with an aim toward presenting a final bill to the regular Diet session next spring. That prospect looks increasingly difficult given the complexity of the debate and concern from other party members about rushing deliberations, as well as reluctance from coalition partner Komeito.

Some Komeito members have expressed concern over amending the Constitution to establish provisions for free education, saying that the issue can be dealt with through normal parliamentary procedures.

“I don’t necessarily think that we have to revise the Constitution,” Komeito head Natsuo Yamaguchi told reporters Tuesday.

The LDP’s decision to drop a specific mention of making education free has angered Osaka-based Nippon Ishin no Kai, which has long supported the measure. The party’s own proposal for constitutional revision specifically states that education from kindergarten through high school should be free of charge. The party also proposes an amendment with specific language to guarantee that nobody will be deprived of such education due to economic reasons.

Article 26 of the current Constitution states that “all people shall have the right to receive an equal education correspondent to their ability, as provided by law. All people shall be obligated to have all boys and girls under their protection receive ordinary education as provided for by law. Such compulsory education shall be free.”

In the Diet, Nippon Ishin’s policy research council chair, Mikio Shimoji, criticized the move, asking whether the LDP would take into account the advice of opposition parties.

For his part, Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui, who is also the head of Nippon Ishin, on Tuesday said, “This is a violation of the LDP’s campaign promise. Unless you include the provision for free education in the Constitution, the policy could be revised if there’s a change of government.”

While Nippon Ishin is an opposition party, it is also close to the LDP on most issues and has indicated it favors constitutional revision. Matsui and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have a good personal relationship. But Nippon Ishin’s losses in the Oct. 22 election left it with only 11 Lower House seats, leading to questions about whether Matsui and the party have much ability to influence the direction of the constitutional debate within the LDP and the Diet as a whole.

Information from Kyodo added