General Douglas MacArthur and Japanese Emperor Hirohito: After
of marauding across Asia and committing crimes on par with the
Nazis, a new
Constitution was drawn up under the Allied occupation that
War II. The document, under which Japan renounced the sovereign
wage war, has never been amended.
Imposed 66 Years Ago, the Time Has Come for Japan to Revise Our 'Pacific Constitution' (Iwate NippoShimbun, Japan)
within each party, there seems to be a reliable set of supporters for amending
the Constitution, while the number of those who oppose it is on the decline.
... One way or the other, today's political focus and the heated debate on the
Constitution is forcing Japan to confront this issue and act."
Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe: As friction with China and North Korea grows, Abe, the most right-wing Japanese leader in years, wants to revise Japan's post-war constitution for the first time. After decades as one of the world's most peaceful nations, can Japan again be trusted to have a national military?
With China's continuing attempts to expand its maritime
jurisdiction on one side, and a nuclear-armed North Korea on the other, peace
and stability in the Far East is at stake. Amid imminent danger and existing
threats, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), headed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe - who seeks a comprehensive revision of the
Constitution - won a historic landslide victory in the general election and has
been returned to power. The idea of revising the Constitution appears increasingly
Abe has laid down guidelines for the current debate on amending
the Constitution, saying that above all, the focus should be on revising
Article 96, which outlines the requirements for initiating constitutional amendments.
In a Diet session at the end of January, Abe clearly stated, "The first thing
we have to do is work on revising Article 96, which is something many parties
and factions feel is necessary."
[Editor's Note: Article 96 says that amendments require the
approval of two-thirds of the members of both houses of the National Diet,
before they can be presented to the people in a referendum].
The central focus for amending the Constitution is Article
9, which renounces the waging of war "as a sovereign right of the
nation." But because he believes that revising the procedure for amending
the Constitution will win wider approval than dealing with any specific issue, Abe
emphasized that before dealing with Article 9, his administration would move to
weaken the provisions of Article 96.
The draft constitutional amendment submitted by the LDP last
April calls for a revision of Article 96, so that the number of votes necessary
for approving a constitutional amendment would be cut from at least two-thirds
of both houses of the National Diet to a simple majority in each chamber.
In June 2011, a parliamentary group was established by a
number of Diet members, headed by the then-ruling Democratic Party and LDP, the
sole purpose of which is to pursue a revision of Article 96. It welcomed as
advisers the last three prime ministers - Yoshiro Mori, Taro Aso and Shinzo Abe.At its
first meeting, there were participants from the People's New
Party, New Komeito, Your Party, and
non-partisan groups. It has been reported that there were a total of 100
participants and 200 of their supporters present.
Now, within each party, there seems to be a reliable set of
supporters for amending the Constitution, while the number of those who oppose
it is on the decline. Further, with conservatives playing the largest and most influential
role in the Diet, it cannot be said that amending the Constitution is exclusively
Abe's personal agenda or that of the LDP.
On the issue of the right to collective self defense, Abe told
the Diet, "I am determined to find an appropriate way to respond to the
current national security environment." He also mentioned revisiting the constitutional
interpretation put forward by Zenko
Suzuki's cabinet in 1981, that while Japan has the right to individual and
collective self-defense under international law, it cannot exercise that right
because of its pacifist Constitution. While this movement may be welcomed in
the Diet, it is an open question whether this reflects public opinion.
Posted By Worldmeets.US
In the last general election, the LDP made no direct
comments about the debate on amending the Constitution. Instead, it focused on
the importance of economic recovery as a strategy to win votes. For Abe to stabilize
his administration, it is crucial to his cabinet that the LDP not only win the House
of Councilors elections this summer, but that it carefully handle the debate on amending
It has been 66 years since the Constitution was imposed in
1947, and it has been six years since the National Referendum Law was enacted.
One way or the other, today's political focus and the heated debate on the
Constitution is forcing Japan to confront this issue and act.