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LDP's constitutional change chief Shimomura urges opposition to propose revisions

Hakubun Shimomura speaks in an interview with the Mainichi Shimbun at the Liberal Democratic Party's headquarters in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on Oct. 19, 2018. (Mainichi/Motohiro Negishi)

TOKYO -- Hakubun Shimomura, head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)'s Headquarters for the Promotion of Revision to the Constitution, wants opposition parties to present specific amendment proposals of their own to spur debate on the issue, he told the Mainichi Shimbun in a recent interview.

Excerpts of his comments follow:

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, president of the LDP, has repeatedly talked about specific moves toward constitutional amendment. We will work on the issue in order to break the impasse in Diet deliberations on the matter.

However, the commissions on the Constitution at both chambers of the Diet are different from other Diet committees. If the ruling bloc moves ahead with discussions in a high-handed manner, it would adversely affect the situation. We must basically hold careful consultations while listening to opinions from opposition parties.

The largest opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP) has insisted that constitutional revisions cannot be carried out under the Abe administration. I don't think such a view will win public understanding.

The LDP is thinking of presenting its basic thinking on clauses (to be revised) at the commissions on the Constitution. The CDP can propose its own draft and criticize the LDP's draft. Regardless of whether any proposal will win support from two-thirds of legislators in both chambers (necessary to initiate constitutional amendment), holding debate in a way that it is visible to the public would conform to the principle of constitutionalism.

If there are political parties that agree with us on how to write the Self-Defense Forces into the Constitution while retaining (war-renouncing) paragraph 1 and paragraph 2 (that bans Japan from possessing war potential) in Article 9, project teams can be set up at the commissions on the Constitution to have thorough debate.

We'd like to realize the LDP's plan for constitutional revisions, but we have no intention of being dogmatic about it. Priority should be placed on moving ahead with discussions in the Diet. It's undoubtedly Prime Minister Abe's accomplishment that political forces in favor of constitutional revisions have secured two-thirds of seats in both houses of the Diet, making revising the supreme law realistic. Nobody else could have achieved such a thing.

However, since we've come to this stage, we mustn't rely so heavily on Prime Minister Abe any longer. We shouldn't aim for constitutional revisions by Abe or by the LDP. Now is the time for members of the public to decide whether to amend the Constitution.

The Constitution should be constantly improved with the participation of members of the general public. How about taking this opportunity to think on the meaning of the fact that the Constitution hasn't been revised in more than 70 years?

Is the current Constitution absolute? I think there are some aspects that must be reformed in response to the changing times. We'd like to raise essential questions on the issue for the public.

(Japanese original by Takashi Sudo, Digital News Center)

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