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Opposition party leaders pan PM Abe's call to speed-up constitutional revision talks

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe answers questions by Yukio Edano, leader of the largest opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, at a plenary session of the House of Representatives on Oct. 29, 2018. (Mainichi/Masahiro Kawata)

TOKYO -- The leaders of two key opposition parties criticized Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's call in his policy speech to speed-up discussions on constitutional revisions at a plenary session of the Diet on Oct. 29.

Abe, president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), hopes that the party will submit its draft of four-point revisions to the supreme law, including the stipulation of the existence of the Self-Defense Forces, to the ongoing extraordinary Diet session.

During the Oct. 29 session, Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP) leader Yukio Edano and Democratic Party for the People chief Yuichiro Tamaki maintained their confrontational approach to the prime minister over the issue.

Edano's criticism targeted the prime minister's recognition of the Constitution. In his policy speech on Oct. 24 at the Diet, Abe described the Constitution as a document that talks about the country's ideals.

Edano argued that the Constitution is not means to realize the prime minister's ideals but is something that "binds state power to protect the lives of members of the general public."

"The prime minister's misunderstanding is nothing new, but please relearn what the Constitution is from scratch," Edano told Abe.

Edano, who chose not to ask any specific question about the Constitution, did not give the prime minister an opportunity to speak out about amendments to the supreme law.

Tamaki criticized the LDP's draft of revisions to the Constitution saying it is deceptive. "While working out a draft that would drastically expand the scope of Japan's right to self-defense, the LDP says nothing would change. We're opposed to the LDP's dishonest and fraudulent draft," Tamaki said.

He then proposed revisions to the Constitution that would clearly stipulate that Japan has restrained its right to self-defense, thereby enhancing Japan's peace.

However, Tamaki said for the first time that there is a possibility of the Democratic Party for the People agreeing to have discussions on restrictions on television advertisements calling for the public to vote for or against constitutional revisions.

The CDP is wary that such discussions could lead to the process of proposing constitutional revisions.

In responding to questions by Tomomi Inada, chief deputy secretary-general of the LDP and a close aide to Abe, the prime minister expressed enthusiasm about writing the existence of the SDF into the supreme law.

"It's the responsibility of politicians to create an environment in which all SDF members can fulfill their duties with strong pride," the prime minister said, expressing hope for broad consensus between ruling and opposition parties on the issue.

Abe has proposed that a paragraph explicitly providing for the existence of the SDF be added to Article 9 while retaining the clause's war-renouncing paragraph 1 and paragraph 2, which bans Japan from possessing any war potential such as land, sea and air forces.

Both the CDP and the Democratic Party for the People are cautious about revising the Constitution under the Abe administration. They are critical of the removal of LDP legislators Gen Nakatani and Hajime Funada, who prioritize cooperation between the ruling and opposition parties on the issue, from the lower chamber's Commission on the Constitution.

Koichi Hagiuda, executive acting secretary-general of the LDP, suggested in an NHK TV program on Oct. 28 that the prime minister would not speak out about constitutional revisions to make sure that progress will be made in the process.

"If discussions in the commissions on the Constitution would progress by having the prime minister keep silent, then we'll consider doing so," he said. However, Abe clearly expressed his view on constitutional amendments in response to questions by Inada.

Akira Koike, director of the opposition Japanese Communist Party's secretariat, criticized Abe's statements saying the prime minister "ignores his obligation to respect and uphold the Constitution provided for by Article 99 of the Constitution."

(Japanese original by Tetsuya Kageyama, Political News Department)

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