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54% of election candidates in Japan oppose tighter restrictions on private rights: survey

This photo shows an advance voting station for the House of Representatives election, at Itabashi Ward Office in Tokyo, on Oct. 24, 2021. (Mainichi/Kaho Kitayama)

TOKYO -- Fifty-four percent of the 1,051 candidates in Japan's upcoming general election surveyed by the Mainichi Shimbun opposed tighter restrictions on private rights to deal with the coronavirus, including laws related to "lockdowns," while 37% were in favor.

    Among the ruling parties, there was a gap between the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), with a majority in favor, and Komeito, with nearly 80% against. Opposition parties are also divided in their support. There is a possibility that the debate on private right restrictions will accelerate after the Oct. 31 House of Representatives election, but finding an easy consensus appears difficult.

    Regarding the tightening of restrictions on private rights, among party candidates, 52% of LDP members, 94% of Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party), and 58% of the Democratic Party for the People were in favor. On the other hand, only 15% of Komeito members supported the idea, while 77% were opposed to it. In addition, 71% of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and 99% of the Japanese Communist Party opposed the move.

    It is believed that there are concerns that the legislation, which allows for severe restrictions on going out and the suspension of business, may violate the Constitution's guarantee of "freedom of movement" and "freedom of business."

    A lockdown is a mandatory measure that severely restricts an individual's socioeconomic activities, including a curfew with penalties. It has been implemented in the United States, France, India and other countries since the spread of the coronavirus, and in many cases, violators are fined heavily.

    While Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has stated that "imposing hefty fines is not fitting for our country," he has not ruled out discussions toward the establishment of a law regarding lockdowns. If it is to be considered, the challenges will be consistency with constitutional provisions and how to prevent excessive restrictions on private rights. The negative impact on the economy and society and the effectiveness of preventing the spread of infections are also likely to be points of discussion.

    Of the candidates who were in favor of tightening restrictions on private rights, 87% were supportive of amending the Constitution, and 69% were favorable to the creation of an "emergency clause" as outlined in the LDP's four-point draft provisions. The emergency clause in the draft is intended to strengthen administrative authority in the event of a large-scale disaster, but there is an opinion within the LDP that infectious diseases should also be covered by the measure.

    The questionnaire also asked about the balance between preventing the spread of coronavirus infections and social and economic activities. Most respondents, or 43%, said that the government should focus on preventing the spread of infections. This was followed by "the current government policy is fine as it is" at 34% and "the focus should be on socioeconomic activities" at 19%.

    The survey was distributed from Oct. 5, the day after Kishida announced the dissolution of the lower house. The response rate was 94.1%.

    (Japanese original by Jun Aoki, Political News Department)

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