Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Monday, May 1, that this year is the right time to “take a historic step” in rewriting the war-renouncing Constitution.
He made the assertion two days ahead of the public holiday that commemorates the document’s entry into force 70 years ago.
Abe cited the “security situation, which is increasing in severity,” as one reason for amending the Constitution for the first time since Japan lost the war.
On April 27, the exhibition commemorating the 70th Anniversary of the Promulgation of the Japanese Constitution began in the Parliamentary Museum, located adjacent to the National Diet Building. I immediately went to see the exhibition, and there came upon the following speech by a certain prime minister.
“In order to achieve our nation’s independence, I want to reform the various laws and regulations, and systems created during the occupation to reflect the circumstances of our nation (paraphrased).”
“In particular, there is a need to amend the Constitution, the basis of law in our nation, giving due consideration to the circumstances of its promulgation and the effect of its enactment, so that it reflects the state of our nation.”
These are not the words of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as he argues for “a Constitution for a new era.” This is a section of a policy speech by the then-Prime Minister Ichiro Hatoyama, delivered 62 years ago in 1955.
So, what has the Diet been doing for more than 60 years? It is pathetic.
The Constitution remains completely untouched, left as is, an old American-made constitution—despite enormous changes in the international situation, the position of Japan, the nature of society, and the lives of the people between the time of promulgation on May 3, 1947, and now.
The negligence and failure of the Diet to act can no longer be excused. When one speaks of this, the counter argument raised is that the people are not yet sufficiently concerned about the need for constitutional reform. However, there are some interesting survey results available.
In April, the Junior Chamber International Japan conducted a nationwide poll on constitutional revision. As of April 27th, 52 national discussions, open to the general public aged 18- 40 years, have been held across 33 prefectures. A survey regarding the emergency provisions clause and Article 9 was taken prior to and post-participation in the discussions, yielding answers from 1,241 respondents.
In the national discussions, two videos were shown, explaining the positions of two personalities: Hideki Murai, a Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) representative in the lower house, and a supporter of constitutional revision; and Yoshinobu Odaira, Japanese Communist Party lower house member, an anti-revisionist. Their main points were summarized afterwards.
One question asked was whether an emergency provisions clause should be established for use in cases of large-scale disasters and emergencies, such as an earthquake hitting the capital.
Prior to the discussions, 28.5% of respondents answered “Agree,” and 21.8% answered “Agree somewhat”—totaling 50.3% or half of the respondents. However, after participating in the discussions, the percentage of respondents answering “Agree” rose to 39.6%, while “Agree somewhat” increased to 28.7%—totaling 68.3%, or more than two-thirds of the respondents.
Another question asked of the respondents was whether the Self-defense Force (SDF) should be clearly indicated in Article 9 of the Constitution.
Prior to discussions, 40% of respondents answered “Agree,” while 21.8% said they “Agree somewhat”—totaling 62.6%. After participation, those who “Agree” went up to 51.5%, and those who “Agree somewhat” rose a bit to 22.3%—totaling 73.8%, or a gain of almost 10%.
For both the emergency provisions clause and Article 9, teenage females, in particular, showed a conspicuous trend toward “neutral” prior to participation. However, after participation, their number was halved to two-thirds.
This means that when problematic issues and arguments, including anti-amendment views, are understood, the “need to revise” opinion increases.
“During these 70 years, the situation and circumstances domestically and internationally have changed dramatically. The challenge for us, living here today, is to create the ideals for a new era, while holding sacred the universal values of the Constitution.”
This is what Prime Minister Abe said in his speech on April 26, at the opening ceremony of the 70th Anniversary of the Promulgation of the Japanese Constitution Exhibition.
Instead of just sitting and waiting for awareness to heighten among the people, members of parliament who think the Constitution needs to be revised should be explaining its necessity and importance, and persuading the voters themselves. The public would surely listen to a sincere argument.
Rui Abiru is the Sankei Shimbun's editorial Writer and political section editing committee member
(Click here to read the original article in Japanese)