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EDITORIAL | Constitution Reform Held Hostage by Minority Lawmakers

Japan's security depends on the SDF and government continuity in an emergency. Don't let irresponsible Diet members delay amendments to the Constitution.



The Commission on the Constitution of the Upper House held its first open discussion session on May 8. Chairman Hirofumi Nakasone is in the center. (@Sankei by Ataru Haruna)

Substantive deliberations have finally begun in the Commission on the Constitution of the Upper House. Considering this Diet session convened in January, it was far too slow a start. Moreover, only about a month and a half remain until the end of the current session. In other words, discussions need to speed up. 

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida aims to achieve constitutional reform before his term as president of the Liberal-Democratic Party (LDP) finishes at the end of September. If that is to happen, the drafts of proposed amendments to the Constitution must be finished soon. 

There is also a Commission on the Constitution of the House of Representatives. The LDP has called for a drafting committee to prepare the proposed amendments. Among the items of most concern are the authority to extend the terms of Diet members in the event of an emergency and clear recognition of the Self-Defense Forces as the legitimate armed forces of the nation.

Debate on constitutional reform has not made as much progress in the Upper House as in the House of Representatives. At this point, it makes no sense to adjust the progress to the pace of the laggard chamber. Rather, debate in the Upper House should get up to speed to match that of the House of Representatives. Furthermore, the two houses should cooperate to draft the amendments. 

Former Liberal Democratic Party chief secretary Gen Nakatani speaks at the House of Representatives Commission on the Constitution on April 25. (@Sankei by Ataru Haruna)

Moving the Debate Forward

Certain members of the Upper House are calling for caution regarding an amendment incorporating an emergency situation clause. However, their concern is difficult to fathom. 

Within the Commission on the Constitution of the House of Representatives, members of the LDP, Komeito, Nippon Ishin no Kai, and some other parties have already concurred on the need to extend Diet members' terms in case of an emergency. Meanwhile, some Upper House Komeito members have suggested that there is no need. They suggest that, if there is a national emergency, it should be possible to respond to it by calling an emergency session of the Upper House in line with Article 54 of the Constitution of Japan

In part, that article states, "the Cabinet may in time of national emergency convoke the House of Councillors in emergency session."

However, in full, Article 54 clearly says that the Cabinet only has the authority to convoke the Upper House during a period of 40 days after the dissolution of the House of Representatives during which a mandatory general election must be held, or a period of 30 days from that election during which the Diet must be convoked.


Leaving the Constitution unchanged means the House of Representatives is unable to respond if the terms of its members have already expired. Indeed, emergency meetings of the House of Representatives would not be possible to begin with in a major disaster or prolonged emergency and more than 70 days had passed since its dissolution. 

Kiyomi Tsujimoto of the CDP appears before the House of Councilors Commission on the Constitution on May 8 in the Diet. (@Sankei by Ataru Haruna)

Opposition Tactics Putting the Nation at Risk

During deliberations of the Commission on the Constitution of the Upper House, Diet member Kiyomi Tsujimoto of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP) touched on  the issue of the non-disclosure of income from parties held by some LDP factions. She suggested, "Don't the majority of the public believe that this (debate on revision of the Constitution) should be left to those representatives chosen in the next election?" 

By this perverted logic, the Diet would become incapable of discussing any critical issues facing the nation.

Tsujimoto also criticized Prime Minister Kishida's promotion of proposed text for the amendments. Incredibly, she claimed that "his behavior exceeded his authority."

The fact is that the Prime Minister is the president of the largest political party in Japan. That party, by itself, also controls a majority in the House of Representatives. Moreover, according to Article 72 of the Constitution, as representative of the Cabinet, the Prime Minister has the authority to propose legislation, including constitutional amendments, to the Diet. Again, Tsujimoto's criticism is simply an excuse for not acting. 

There is sufficient willingness to proceed with establishing a drafting committee for the revised articles. On May 9, Gen Nakatani, chief secretary for the ruling parties in the Commission on the Constitution of the House of Representatives said, "I am all for establishing it if we get a reply (from the CDP) allowing us to move ahead." 

How long are the politicians going to keep putting off what needs to be done? The government must not let itself be thwarted by certain minority parties that only want to throw up obstacles to constitutional reform. 


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun