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Monday, Jan. 7, 2013
Komeito as countervailing power
Since the formation of a coalition government on Dec. 26, the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito have gotten into the full swing of governing. The parties jointly occupy more than two-thirds of the Lower House seats — enough to overturn Upper House decisions on legislative bills.
In this situation, Komeito, which has characterized itself as a party for peace and social welfare, has the important role of checking the excesses of the LDP, especially its hawkish stance on the Constitution. The LDP, under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, calls for a revision of the war-renouncing Article 9.
In their policy agreement struck after the Dec. 16 Lower House election, the LDP and Komeito agreed to advance discussions by the Commission on the Constitution in both the Upper and Lower Houses and to deepen public discussion toward a constitutional revision. Given Komeito's basic stance, a revision of Article 9 would undermine its most fundamental principle.
In the campaign for the Lower House election, Komeito chief Mr. Natsuo Yamaguchi countered the LDP's call for transforming the Self-Defense Forces into the National Defense Force through a revision of Article 9. He said there is no need "to change the name of the SDF." But he should see the true nature of the LDP's move. Its draft constitution lacks a mechanism to restrain military activities carried out abroad by the proposed NDF.
It says that the proposed NDF, under a specific law, can take part in international cooperative activities to help maintain peace and security in the international community. Mr. Yamaguchi should realize that the concept in this clause is so vague and sweeping that it could be used to justify Japan's participation in virtually any type of military mission abroad. Mr. Yamaguchi should not forget that since the Japan Restoration Party and some other parties favor revision of Article 9, if the LDP and these parties join hands, the move for a constitutional revision will gain momentum.
In the election campaign, Komeito called for achieving "zero nuclear power" as soon as possible. But the LDP-Komeito agreement only calls for reducing Japan's reliance on nuclear power as much as possible. Because Japan is a quake-prone country and the stockpiling of nuclear waste poses insoluble environmental problems, Komeito should check the LDP's move toward continuing nuclear power generation.
Both the LDP and Komeito call for massive public works projects in the name of making Japan resilient to natural disasters. But Komeito should be aware of the danger of accumulating national debts unless public works projects are strictly scrutinized.
Komeito is cautious about the LDP's call for revising the Bank of Japan Law to force the central bank to end deflation through unlimited monetary easing. Komeito thinks such a revision will deprive the BOJ of its independence. This is a reasonable stance.
Komeito cannot be too careful in preventing itself from becoming a force that merely supplements the LDP's objectives. It should keep in mind that although the LDP won nearly 300 seats in the Lower House election, the LDP received the support of only about 20 percent of all voters.