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Ruling, opposition parties clash over constitutionalism at Diet session

Opposition parties once again lashed out at new security legislation that opened the way for Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)'s 2012 draft revisions to the Constitution, during a Diet panel session on Nov. 24.

The day's debate at the House of Representatives Commission on the Constitution centered on "constitutionalism," over which ruling and opposition parties were sharply divided. The theme was set at the request of the opposition Democratic Party (DP).

In response to the opposition criticism, the LDP countered by arguing that constitutionalism is not only about restricting state authority, while acknowledging the importance of constitutionalism itself.

Yoko Kamikawa of the LDP pointed out the concept of constitutionalism -- to the effect that the Constitution restricts the exercise of state power -- has been changing with the time. She argued that respect for other people's values is the basis of a society in which people can live humanely, and called for debate on constitutional amendment in a way that will lead to creating a community-oriented society.

Former Defense Minister Gen Nakatani, of the LDP, slammed opposition parties, saying, "They are using the word constitutionalism based on their likes and dislikes of the administration, and disregarding its original meaning."

Meanwhile, Tetsuo Saito of Komeito offered a different view from its coalition partner LDP, saying, "The Constitution is a collection of principles about the exercise of power addressed to authority by the sovereign people in order to guarantee basic human rights."

The DP's Yukio Edano criticized the LDP, saying, "The significance of constitutionalism has dramatically expanded under the sovereignty of the people. The LDP's draft revisions to the Constitution run counter to constitutionalism and treat the supreme law as if it were an instrument for governance."

Kiyomi Tsujimoto of the DP called for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to attend the panel's sessions by calling his past statement into question. Abe once told a lower house budget commit meeting in February 2014, "There is the idea that (the Constitution) is to bind state power, but that was the mainstream way of thinking when kings had absolute authority."

Yasushi Adachi of the Nippon Ishin no Kai said, "I can't figure out what the DP wants to discuss. I'm strongly concerned that the act of labeling something as running counter to constitutionalism is repeated at this panel's sessions."

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