National / Politics

Head of Democratic Party for the People seeks constitutional debate not focused on Article 9

JIJI, Kyodo, Staff Report

The opposition Democratic Party for the People wants to pursue discussions on constitutional reform but the discussion should not focus on the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s four-point proposal that includes changes to war-renouncing Article 9, party head Yuichiro Tamaki has said.

In a recent interview, Tamaki said the Diet should begin by discussing points on which both the ruling and opposition parties can find common ground.

“There is plenty to discuss other than Article 9,” he said. “I’d like discussions to be wide-ranging and rich, instead of focusing merely on Article 9.”

He suggested taking up possible revisions to improve the separation of powers. His ideas included limiting the power of the prime minister to dissolve the House of Representatives for a snap election and setting a deadline for the Cabinet to convene a Diet session when requested to do so by the legislative branch, according to the lawmaker.

Another proposal concerns the promotion of diversity through a revision to the Constitution’s clause on marriage so as not to deny same-sex marriage. He also said he wants to propose reforming the relationship between the state and local governments so that local governments will be given more flexibility on some governance issues, including rights over the establishment of ordinances and the imposition of taxes.

Tamaki also called for a provision to ensure food security, inspired by a clause added to the Swiss Constitution in 2017.

As for the LDP’s proposals for revising the Constitution, the DPP chief said the ruling party’s four-point plan should be taken off the table.

“Clarifying the Self-Defense Forces (in Article 9) and including an emergency clause are problematic,” he said. “The idea that clarifying the organization’s name while leaving its powers and responsibilities unchanged is, to be clear, a lie.”

The opposition party leader warned that the LDP must work with opposition forces to come to a consensus on constitutional revision, especially after the ruling bloc and other pro-revision forces lost their two-thirds supermajority in the House of Councilors. The two-thirds threshold is necessary to trigger a referendum.

“(The LDP) should first begin with points the ruling and opposition camps can agree on,” he said. “Calm discussions can be conducted if both sides compromise. I’d like those in power to be mindful of their actions, but I’m also sure many citizens do not want to see the opposition shy away from coming to the negotiating table.”

Tamaki cautioned Prime Minister Shinzo Abe against getting DPP lawmakers around to his side in order to secure the two-thirds supermajority in the Upper House.

“If they barely scrape together a two-thirds majority, the constitutional revision will be labeled as half-baked by opposition parties and rejected in a national referendum,” Tamaki said. “(The prime minister) must gain a consensus among the major opposition parties.”

On Thursday, Tamaki met with Yukio Edano, who heads the leading opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, and suggested forming a joint parliamentary group on an equal footing within both the Lower House and Upper House.

The meeting was held in response to Edano’s call earlier this month for the DPP to form a joint group, but just within the Lower House.

Edano did not immediately accept Tamaki’s proposal and they agreed to meet again later in the month.