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Friday, May 4, 2012
Conservatives call for revising Constitution
Charter turns 65 amid clamor to amend Article 9, uphold military
By MASAMI ITO
The time has come for political parties to overcome their differences and join hands to revise the Constitution to suit the times, including by establishing of an "army" to protect Japan, its people and its territory, conservative lawmakers said Thursday.
Marking the 65th anniversary of the Constitution, lawmakers, academics, journalists and others gathered in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, to discuss the political parties' various positions on revising the charter. The event was organized by Minkan Kenpo Rincho, a citizen-based policy group with about 180 members, including conservative academics, journalists and legal experts.
The political world of Nagata-cho is divided over the amendment issue. The charter has remained intact since it took effect in 1947 after being drafted by the Allied Occupation Forces.
Last week, three opposition parties, including the conservative Liberal Democratic Party, revealed their drafts or basic ideas on revising the charter.
The ruling Democratic Party of Japan, on the other hand, hasn't revealed a revision proposal since 2005. Since the party is composed of people with a wide range of ideologies, from ultra-conservatives to liberal, the DPJ has had a difficult time trying to unify its stance on amending the charter and other matters, including security issues.
At Thursday's forum, lawmaker Kansei Nakano, who heads the DPJ's committee on the Constitution, stressed the need to amend the charter and the importance of raising public awareness of the issue.
"Revising the Constitution is not something that special and we do not need to view it as permanent," Nakano said. "In fact, what is important is to make sure that the public has the awareness that the Constitution needs to be discussed as time goes by and as the nation develops."
The biggest source of conflict over the amendment issue is Article 9, which renounces war and the use of force as a means to settle international disputes.
It also rejects the maintenance of war potential and a state's right of belligerency, even though the government has justified the Self-Defense Forces' existence by stating they are not "war potential" but forces for "self-defense."
"No matter how you look at it, it is obvious that Japan has a military that is protecting its land, sea and sky . . . and I think that it is abnormal that the Constitution does not mention it at all," Nakano said.
Meanwhile, the LDP's latest proposal deeply reflects its conservative views, including on Article 9. The LDP's draft stipulates that Japan would establish a national defense army and states that Japan's right to defend itself would not be hindered while maintaining the renunciation of war.
The party's draft also proposes the Emperor be called the "head of state" and the Hinomaru be recognized as the national flag and "Kimigayo" as the anthem.
On Thursday, LDP lawmaker Kosuke Hori admitted that such a drastic revision won't be easy to achieve and suggested that parties first concentrate on relaxing the conditions for revising it. A two-thirds vote in both the Lower and Upper houses is needed to hold a referendum on revising the supreme code.
Tachiagare Nippon (Sunrise Party of Japan), an ultraconservative opposition force, proposed that the Constitution clearly stipulate the need for the nation to engage in collective self-defense, currently deemed unconstitutional, and to continue the tradition of allowing only males to ascend the Chrysanthemum Throne.
"Even in these times of equal rights for men and women, we must protect the fact that we have maintained the paternal lineage," said Takeo Hiranuma, the leader of Tachiagare Nippon.
Your Party called for the abolition of the Upper House and for introducing a system to let the public vote directly for prime minister, emulating proposals by Osaka Ishin no Kai (One Osaka), led by popular Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto.
Mito Kakizawa, a member of Your Party, pointed out that Japan has a history of revolving door prime ministers and stressed the need to find a strong and long-lasting leader who is elected by the people themselves.
According to organizers, only four political parties were invited to speak Thursday. New Komeito, the Buddhist-linked opposition force, is an advocate of tweaking the current charter to suit the times, especially by including new clauses that reflect environment and privacy rights issues.
The Social Democratic Party and the Japanese Communist Party, meanwhile, are firmly against revising the Constitution, especially Article 9.