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LDP's constitutional draft, proposals by Unification Church-linked group bear similarities

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida holds a press conference the day after the House of Councillors election at the LDP headquarters in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on July 11, 2022. (Mainichi/Kan Takeuchi)

TOKYO -- Many similarities have been found in the constitutional revision plans of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and proposals by a political organization affiliated with the Unification Church -- a finding that has drawn attention.

    In April 2017, the political group International Federation for Victory over Communism released an approximately 17-minute video titled "on constitutional amendments," in which Yoshio Watanabe, vice chairman of the group, explained his own reform proposals. The group is affiliated with the Unification Church, formally known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification.

    Watanabe listed the establishment of an emergency clause as the first priority for constitutional change. Using the example of a major earthquake, he explained that "the government's authority would be strengthened to protect lives by temporarily restricting property rights and tightly regulating food and fuel prices." In the May 2021 issue of "Sekai Shiso," a magazine affiliated with the political group, it is stated that the emergency clause covers "wars, disasters and so on."

    Meanwhile, the draft compiled by the LDP in April 2012, when it was an opposition party, states that in the event of an armed attack from outside Japan, or in a civil war or large-scale disaster, the Cabinet would be able to enact an order with the same force as a law, and that "any person must obey" the instructions of the national government or public agencies in such a scenario. The direction of its proposal is consistent with that of the political group.

    In the video, Watanabe also called for the addition of a clause on family protection as the second priority, stressing that "without this, same-sex marriage, which cannot result in a natural and fundamental unit, will spread." The LDP draft, meanwhile, states that "the family is to be respected as the natural and fundamental unit of society," using terminology consistent with that of the political group.

    In his third proposal, Watanabe stated that "there is not a single word (in the Constitution) that can be used as a basis for why the Self-Defense Forces are allowed to exist," and insisted that a "self-defense military" or "national defense forces" be clearly stated in the Constitution. This, too, is practically in line with the LDP draft, which clearly calls for a "national defense forces."

    The LDP's four-point amendment draft compiled in March 2018 suggested adding an emergency clause that would temporarily strengthen the Cabinet's authority and allow for a special extension of the term of office of Diet members in the event of "a major earthquake or other extraordinary, large-scale disaster," in addition to adding the Self-Defense Forces to Article 9.

    Opposition lawmakers from the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and the Japanese Communist Party have voiced criticism, saying, "The nationalism that emphasizes the public interest and the state over the individual is common to the constitutional amendment proposals of both the LDP and the Unification Church."

    On the other hand, Yosuke Isozaki, a former upper house member who was involved in the preparation of the 2012 LDP draft, said, "No outside groups such as the Unification Church expressed any opinions or requests at the time. If someone were to claim that the Unification Church had an influence on the draft, it would be a false accusation."

    In the July 10 upper house election, the four parties in favor of constitutional revision -- the LDP and its junior coalition partner Komeito, the conservative opposition Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party) and the Democratic Party for the People -- won a combined 93 seats, and together with uncontested seats, they secured more than two-thirds of the seats in the upper chamber required for constitutional amendments to be proposed.

    Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said after the election that he would like to lead the debate in the Diet to realize constitutional reform. However, conservative members of the LDP have some opinions in common with the Unification Church, which is anti-communist, and many of them have ties with the group, especially those in the Abe faction, previously led by former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was fatally shot in July. With public opinion being harsh regarding this fact, it is unclear whether the LDP will be able to take the lead in the debate.

    A person close to Komeito pointed out, "The Abe faction, which had been the most aggressive in pushing for constitutional revision, may find it difficult to move for the time being because the Unification Church issue has come to light."

    The person also indicated that the constitutional debate will be pushed back for some time due to the similarities between the draft of the LDP and the Unification Church group's proposal.

    (Japanese original by Akiko Kato and Kenta Miyahara, Political News Department)

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