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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

PARTY LINE

SDP sees Upper House race as vital in protecting Article 9


Staff writer

The Constitution's war-renouncing Article 9 is in danger of being revised by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the upcoming Upper House election is an opportunity to put a stop to this effort, Social Democratic Party leader Mizuho Fukushima said.

News photo
Mizuho Fukushima

"The Upper House election is a chance (for the public) to cast a vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Cabinet," Fukushima said in a recent interview with The Japan Times.

Abe has repeatedly said he plans to revise the Constitution, which was drafted in 1947 during the Allied Occupation. He has cleared the first major step by getting a bill passed to establish procedures for a national referendum to revise the charter.

The referendum law takes effect in three years, enabling a revision to the Constitution with a two-thirds majority vote in both Diet chambers followed by a majority vote in a national referendum.

"The SDP has a sense of impending crisis" over the Constitution, Fukushima said, describing the passage of the referendum bill and "everything up to now a preliminary drill," but from this point forward the amendment issue is the real thing.

Fukushima voiced concern over the Abe-led Liberal Democratic Party's 2005 draft version of a new Constitution that stipulates Japan's "self-defense military" would also be permitted to "engage in activities abroad to ensure safety and peace in international society."

Fukushima said this means Japan "can send the Self-Defense Forces abroad and go to war."

The LDP's version of the Constitution "would change Japan from a country that does not use military force to a nation that goes to war — and the point is that Abe does not deny Japan would be using force in other countries."

Fukushima also slammed Abe and his Cabinet, which has seen a drastic drop in its support rate amid a series of scandals and problems, for "ignoring the public" and ramming many bills through the extended Diet session that ended July 5.

Amid the public outcry and the outrage in the opposition camp, the LDP-New Komeito ruling coalition unilaterally passed a raft of controversial bills, including for the referendum, for pension-system reforms in a bid to resolve the fiasco over 50 million unidentified pension records and for revising the Political Funds Control Law to increase transparency on lawmakers' expenditures — a measure slammed as "full of loopholes."

Abe has created a government "of himself, by himself, for himself — without showing any interest in the general public's lives or grief," Fukushima said. "I don't think (Abe) understands that politics actually exists so that people don't have to shed tears. A government like Abe's that does not empathize with the public's pain must step down."

The SDP has a combined 10 Diet members in both chambers, excluding three seats up for re-election in the July 29 race. It plans to officially back 14 candidates in small electoral districts and nine in the proportional representation segment.

Fukushima said it is her ardent wish to obtain seven seats in the Upper House election. With more than 10 lawmakers in both chambers, the party will be able to gain more clout, Fukushima said, adding that this would enable her to engage in a one-on-one battle with Abe.

"The SDP is in a political confrontation with Abe's government. As a party most active in human rights issues from prison reform and the death penalty to refugee issues . . . the SDP values pluralism and a convivial society, whereas (Abe's government) values monism and nationalism."

Fukushima was an active human rights lawyer before being elected to the Upper House in 1998. She is serving her second term and has been SDP leader since 2003.



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