The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has declared that it has effectively shelved its 2012 draft of a new Constitution in response to criticism from opposition parties, while telling LDP members that the draft is an official document, underscoring its importance. The governing party deserves criticism that such a response is merely convenient.
The LDP made the decision at a meeting of its Headquarters for the Promotion of Revision to the Constitution on Oct. 18 to show consideration to both conservatives within the party and its junior coalition partner Komeito as well as opposition parties.
Under the draft, the Emperor would be defined as head of state, the Self-Defense Forces would be upgraded to full-fledged armed forces and the prime minister would be given broad power in case of a serious natural disaster or other critical situations. As such, the draft, which would prioritize public order over respect for fundamental human rights, is of a highly nationalistic and retrospective nature.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe initially said, "Our party has already drawn up a draft. We'd like to have discussions on constitutional revisions based on our party's draft," adding that the LDP would like to respect its draft, which was worked out after thorough debate.
However, Okiharu Yasuoka, chairman of the LDP Headquarters for the Promotion of Revision to the Constitution, declared that the party has no intention of proposing its draft as it is to the commissions on the Constitution at both chambers of the Diet. Yasuoka's remarks modified the prime minister's statements and showed the party's flexibility in discussing revisions to the supreme law.
Following the July 2016 House of Councillors election, legislators in favor of revising the postwar Constitution have two-thirds of seats in both houses of the legislature. Therefore, the Diet could initiate constitutional revisions.
The Mainichi Shimbun has demanded that the LDP scrap the draft of a new Constitution it worked out in 2012, believing it is dangerous for those enthusiastic about constitutional amendment to take advantage of their strength in the Diet to steamroll the LDP draft, which runs counter to the principles of modern democracy. Many opposition parties share such fears. The Democratic Party (DP) is demanding that the LDP withdraw the draft, which the largest opposition party criticizes as making light of people's rights.
Yasuoka even listened to critical opinions on the LDP's draft so that the legislature can begin calm debate on constitutional revisions. However, his declaration that the LDP has shelved its draft became elusive because the headquarters recognized the draft as an official document to win understanding of conservatives within the party.
Prime Minister Abe is trying to avoid holding in-depth discussions on constitutional revisions during the ongoing extraordinary Diet session. His attitude is in sharp contrast to proactive calls for amendment to Article 96 of the Constitution to relax conditions for initiating constitutional amendment, which he had made shortly after he returned to power in late 2012.
Abe said he will leave discussions on specific clauses to be amended to the commissions on the Constitution at both houses of the Diet, and said, "Constitutional revisions are becoming increasingly realistic. I'd like to refrain from making statements on the issue as president of the LDP."
The prime minister has adopted a low-key attitude toward the issue not only because he reflected on the failure to amend Article 96 but apparently because he fears that detailed explanations on specific clauses of the LDP draft would highlight conservative aspects of the draft.
The DP has kept asking questions about the LDP draft, which appears as if to obligate the people to value family bonds. The party has been criticizing the prime minister, who has avoided giving clear-cut replies, for continuing to escape from in-depth discussions on the issue.
The LDP says it will base its intraparty debate on constitutional revisions on not only its 2012 draft but also 2005 draft, in which the conservative tone is restrained. Still, the LDP should scrap its 2012 draft so that ruling and opposition parties can calmly discuss the issue. The governing party is responsible to scrap the draft to ensure sound discussions on the Constitution.