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Koizumi Pushes Ahead with Constitutional Amendment

Posted December. 22, 2004 22:49,   


As the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) launched a draft committee for constitutional amendment on December 21, the move for a constitutional amendment in Japanese political circles is gathering pace. The amendment is expected to be an important subject in Japanese political circles next year, with U.S. President George W. Bush supporting the idea in an effort to secure Japan as a solid ally.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who heads the task force, held the first meeting on December 21 and asked the party to compile a draft ahead of the party`s 50th anniversary on November 15.

He has repeatedly announced that he would pass the bill for the amendment on his watch (by September 2006). As Koizumi seems to be resolved to make the amendment his work, the process is likely to be accelerated.

Former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori was appointed as the chairman of the draft committee and will govern individual subcommittees that will discuss topics such as allowing a woman as an emperor, the abolition of the House of Representatives, and giving more authority to local governments.

The committee had been in charge of the ruling party’s efforts for the amendment. However, the committee’s activities were suspended with the House of Representatives’ strong opposition against the abolition of the bicameral system and with the revelation of the Japan Self Defense Forces’ (JASDF) intervention in the committee for turning the JASDF into an army.

The Japanese Constitution has never been amended since it was established in 1947. Therefore, the coming amendment is expected to include provisions reflecting the changes of the times, such as allowing women emperors, rights for good environment, and equal rights for men and women. However, the crux of the issue is the amendment of Article Nine of Japanese constitution.

Clause 1 of Article nine forbids war permanently, while Clause Two prohibits Japan from having an army and exercising its rights for self- defense. The draft by the committee left Clause 1 untouched while revising the second clause drastically, turning the JASDF into a legitimate army and securing the right to self-defense. The basic direction of the draft is not likely to change.

Currently, only about half of the general Japanese public supports the amendment. The name of the task force, which includes not the term “revision” but “draft for new constitution,” seems to reflect such public sentiment, intending to avoid controversies over “revision versus protection” of the constitution.

However, the House of Representatives’ approval ratings for the amendment are as high as 84.5 percent, according to Kyodo news agency. The main reason is the collapse of the Social Democratic Party, which strongly supports the protection of the amendment. Other parties, such as the opposition Liberal Party, also launched draft committees and are set to form a separate draft for the amendment.

Hun-Joo Cho hanscho@donga.com