LDP out to undermine Constitution

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party are stepping up a call for changing Article 96 of the Constitution, a clause designed to prevent an imprudent revision of the Constitution.

Their call shows that either they do not understand or they are deliberately ignoring the fundamental principle of modern constitutional politics, which is that a constitution is an important mechanism to prevent the power of the government from subjecting people to arbitrary policies or autocratic rule.

Article 96 says that amendments to the Constitution must be initiated by the Diet, through a concurring vote of two-thirds or more of all the members of each House, and then must be submitted to the people for ratification, which requires the affirmative vote of a majority of all votes cast at a special referendum. Mr. Abe and the LDP want to change the article so that amendments to the Constitution can be initiated with a concurring vote of a simple majority in each House.

Article 96 at present makes it difficult to change the Constitution. Its purpose is to prevent politicians and political parties from eliminating the Constitution’s most fundamental clause, which states that sovereignty rests with the people, and from weakening crucial constitutional rights — freedom of thought, speech and expression, the right to choose public officials, freedom of assembly and association, freedom from arbitrary arrests, etc.

The Japan Restoration Party supports the stance of Mr. Abe and the LDP on Article 96, and both parties are striving to win the coming Upper House election so that proconstitutional revision forces can win two-thirds or more of the Upper House seats to enable the Diet to initiate a revision of Article 96.

The current situation in which politicians and political parties are casually talking about changing Article 96 is highly dangerous. Citizens should be wary of the rhetoric and moves of these politicians and parties.

The argument that the Japanese Constitution is too difficult to revise is wrong. Constitutions of many developed countries including the United States include a mechanism that prevents haphazard constitutional revisions.

The LDP’s call for weakening Article 96 without officially making proposals in the Diet to change particular constitutional articles is just an act of public deception. The party’s draft constitution, which proposes changing the war-renouncing Article 9, enables Japan to deploy the “Defense Military” overseas for military actions almost without any restrictions. The draft also restricts freedom of assembly and association and freedom of speech and expression by prohibiting activities and organizations “that harm public interests and public order.” It even intrudes into the sphere of citizens’ private lives by saying that “family members must help each other.”

It cannot be emphasized too much that the LDP is trying to impose a constitution that runs counter to the principle of modern constitutional politics as well as postwar Japan’s no-war principle.

  • The issue is not really that constitutional change is hard or soft; but that ‘sanctioning voters’ are dumbed down as a result of their alienation from politics, investment; in fact every meaningful and intellectually engaging aspect of life. We get to endure the ritualistic, repetitive, materialistic money-making aspects, and leave the field of ideas to the politicians; who as is evident, are not particularly efficacious in the art of persuasion, so they need to equip themselves with a less obstructive sanction.

    • zer0_0zor0

      Voters that don’t have jobs can hardly participate in “investment”. What was all that “ritualistic, materialistic, money making aspect” about, anyway? If what you mean is that the average person is too busy trying to make a living to pay attention to what the politicians are doing, then I could agree with some of that.
      The term “investors” is used jargonistically by politicians connected to the monied class, much of which is ill-gotten gain from the funny-money finance sector.
      The LDP is of course connected to the monied class, but curiously not in they way that Noda was.
      In any case, the attempt to undermine the constitution is on a different level, generally speaking. It is an attempt to undermine the legal system and the rule of law.

      • Anyone can learn investment. There is plenty of free research on the internet. Rituals are unthinking actions in a structured environment. You were raised in a ‘structure’, unquestioned perhaps because you are really powerless to change it with one vote, when ideas don’t matter. Americans tend to have a romantic view of constitutions. NZ scarcely has one. Really its just ‘dogmatised political rules’ held out of context. What a constitution attempts to do is ‘implicitly protect a set of values’ whilst trying to provide an ‘open framework’ of discovering policy. The question is – why should we trust the ideas of the founders given that they came 400 years in the case of the US, or 1940s in the case of Japan? Nothing should be off the table in any political discourse.

      • zer0_0zor0

        Well, the values and ideas set forth in the constitution do matter. It is not simply a matter of “trust” in the “founders”. The founders were individuals coping in society and in the world, just like those of us today.
        What they laid down as a basically permanent framework in the constitution was the result of arduous trials and lessons learned throughout history. There are mechanisms provided for modifying the constitution, but a constitution, by definition, is not subject to easy modification. It is not a disposable cultural artifact, but the bedrock of society.

      • If your argument is that “The founders were individuals coping in society and in the world, just like those of us today”….that would imply that we are infinitely better positioned to judge. We have their experience, additional history and scientific & ethical understanding, and a ‘technological’ context. I think you might be romanticising the colonial education a little; though one can rightfully disdain the ‘average’ state of education.

      • zer0_0zor0

        Well, a lot has changed in terms of technology, but a lot has not changed in terms of human subjectivity, society and governance. We only have a couple of hundred years of additional history, and not all of the events during that period would indicate that lessons have been learned.
        I would venture to say that the reason that constitutions are by definition difficult to amend is because they are constructed with a view to perpetuating viability and facilitating long term stability as opposed to short term fixes–or attempted fixes.

  • Teru

    Whatever the U.S. does is spontaneously duplicated in Japan. In the U.S. many rights of the citizens have been restricted in recent years, of course the lackey; i.e. Japan, has to follow suit. May God give the Japanese citizens enough wisdom to be careful when they choose their representatives.

    • Nicola Feltrin

      I don’t know if Japan is really a US lackey nor if Japanese citizens needs God to help them choose. On the other hand I’m sure constitutional boundaries are as strong as the political group is willing to abide to them. Thus is not really important which is the rule on the reformation but how much the Representatives respect the constitutional order.

      Take the UK as example: they don’t even have a written constitution but the last revolution was in the 17th century. Now think of France: they invented the civil law model and contributed a lot to modern constitutionalism, still they had at least 5 different constitutions and/or Charts in the last two centuries…

      • C321

        I`m afraid the lack of a proper constitution has caught up with the UK, where in recent years freedom of speech, association and privacy have been crushed by the government.

  • zer0_0zor0

    I’m not sure I understand the dynamic to the process regarding efforts to change Article 96. Doesn’t that constitute an Amendment of the constitution? Wouldn’t that mean that the procedural measures instituted by Article 96 has to be followed to amend it?

    It should be born in mind that like most LDP prime ministers, Abe hails from a family that was part of the criminal oligarchy that arose out of the so-called Meiji Restoration, which produced the so-called “State Shinto” theocratic brand of Japanese fascism seen in WWII. The constitution that had been begrudgingly adopted during the Meiji period was based on the German model because Germany also had a kaiser-based constitutional monarchy system, and the constitution adopted in Japan preserve the prerogative of the emperor so that the constitution was capable of being revised (i.e., amended) by a simple edict by the emperor (in Japanese called a “choku-go”). So the real power was held by the oligarchy, basically, with sovereignty vested in the emperor. This is of utmost importance to understanding the present scenario.

    So the author is absolutely correct in calling attention to the perilous threat to constitutional government posed by the various factions of reactionary nationalists in power at present.

  • tommy92

    Any country should have a constitution based their ideals and culture. Clearly the current Japanese constitution was heavily influenced by foreign powers, under occupation and pressure from foreign governments. This is not to suggest that the Americans did anything wrong, perhaps it is perfect as it is. But the Japanese should decide. Have a vote and let democracy decide. The Japanese constitution should represent Japanese values, a modern democratic country should write it’s own constitution.

    Personally I think Japan should alter their constitution and allow themselves to have a normal military, like any other country with a colonial past (America, UK, France, Germany, etc.). This doesn’t excuse their historical behaviour but recognizes that Japan is not unique in history at having a period where they waged wars and conquered others.

    • C321

      This is not about article 9, it`s about the other changes Abe and LDP want to make – they want to remove pretty much all the guarantees of freedom in the constitution. The problem is most Japanese have no interest in politics and so this shocking changes could be brought in by stealth, and they won`t notice until it`s too late.

  • C321

    I`m glad someone is finally pointing this out in the press. I just hope Japan wakes up before all the rights of the Japanese people have been stolen.