• Jiji


Political parties in favor of revising the Constitution are gaining momentum in Japan, tightening the noose around the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, the leading opposition party, which is unenthusiastic about constitutional reform.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party aims to make progress on constitutional debate in the Diet, the country’s parliament, during an ordinary session to be convened in mid-January, hoping to focus on creating an emergency situation clause.

The LDP believes that it will be easier to win public understanding for such a clause, including for a special extension of lawmakers’ terms in the event of a major natural disaster, amid the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic, sources familiar with the situation said.

The LDP is also receiving a tailwind after the Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party) and the Democratic Party for the People (DPP), the opposition parties that are open to constitutional revision, increased the number of their seats in the House of Representatives after the October 2021 election for the lower chamber of the Diet.

“Four amendment proposals made by the LDP are all contemporary challenges,” said Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, also president of the LDP, in a speech in Tokyo on Dec. 23.

“It’s important to proceed with discussions carefully,” Kishida added, suggesting that he aims to hold parliamentary discussions in line with the LDP proposals, which were compiled under the administration of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The four proposals are a clear stipulation of the existence of the Self-Defense Forces in Article 9 of the Constitution, the creation of an emergency situation clause, the elimination of constituency mergers for the House of Councillors, which is the upper chamber of the Diet, and an improvement in education.

In addition to extending lawmakers’ terms, the proposed emergency situation clause calls for allowing the government to put ordinances in place even without approval from the Diet in the event of a major disaster, such as a powerful earthquake.

“It’s necessary to discuss (the proposed clause) from the standpoint of how to maintain the functioning of the Diet in an emergency,” Kazuo Kitagawa, deputy leader of Komeito, the LDP’s coalition partner, has said, signaling his party’s support for an extension of lawmakers’ terms.

“Some local assemblies have already approved a special extension of the terms of office for their members,” a senior official of the DPP said.

Nippon Ishin has also shown a positive stance on the issue, making it likely that the LDP’s emergency clause proposal will receive a measure of support from the opposition camp.

The CDP appears to be unenthusiastic, however. “It’s difficult to say that the public is requesting an emergency situation clause,” CDP leader Kenta Izumi has said.

The Japanese Communist Party also sticks to its cautious stance on constitutional amendments.

The CDP is calling for prioritizing parliamentary talks about restricting television commercials related to a national referendum on constitutional revision and regulating donations by foreigners, rather than discussing specific constitutional revisions.

During an extraordinary Diet session that ended on Dec. 21, the Lower House Commission on the Constitution held its first meeting since Kishida took office in October while a fiscal 2021 supplementary budget was being debated in the Upper House Budget Committee.

It was an unusual Diet schedule, which the CDP eventually accepted at the strong request of the LDP and Nippon Ishin, sources familiar with the situation said.

During the upcoming ordinary Diet session, the LDP and other forces in support of constitutional reform are expected to keep grilling the CDP over its cautious stance on discussions regarding constitutional reform.

“In the ordinary session, we want to limit related discussions to debate on a national referendum law amendment and sorting out issues on constitutional revisions,” a senior CDP official said.

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