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Ultraconservative lobby Nippon Kaigi backs constitution revision

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TOKYO — An influential political lobby in Japan will do its utmost to capitalize on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s election victory and push for the constitution to be revised to allow a more active military, the group’s chairman said Wednesday.

Abe’s gains in the upper house in last weekend’s election mean his party can cobble together the crucial two-thirds majority in both houses to propose a revision and put it to a referendum, if it gets support from lawmakers in other parties open to the changes.

Tadae Takubo, chairman of Nippon Kaigi, or Japan Conference, said the war-renouncing constitution that makes Japan’s defense “defective” needs to be corrected.

It’s time to grow out of Japan’s “silly” postwar goal of becoming an economic power with lightweight military, and seek to restore Japan with more self-respect, traditional family values and principles under the emperor as head of nation, said Takubo, international politics professor at Kyorin University.

This is a golden opportunity that has never happened before. If I were in the prime minister’s position, I will go all out to accomplish a revision during the current term,” Takubo said. His organization will provide full support to push forward the drive, he said.

For Abe and his ultra-conservative supporters, like Nippon Kaigi, the 1947 constitution is the legacy of Japan’s defeat in World War II and an imposition of the victor’s world order and values. The charter renounces the use of force in international conflicts and limits Japan’s military to self-defense only, although Japan has a well-equipped modern army, navy and air force that work closely with the United States, its top ally.

Abe’s ruling party proposed revisions to the constitution in 2012 that intended to restore traditions similar to prewar-era family values centered on the emperor, and to put national interest before individuals’ basic human rights in some cases. It was never formally submitted to parliament.

Abe did not make the constitution a focus of the election, but said on Monday he takes Sunday’s victory as a public endorsement for a revision, pledging to launch a parliamentary committee to discuss which articles to change and how.

Founded in 1997, Nippon Kaigi has strived to revise the constitution to restore traditional gender roles, increase imperial worshipping and put public interest before individuals. The group is believed to be behind Abe’s comeback in 2012 and has become increasingly influential.

Their grass-roots movement backed by Shinto shrines and other new religious groups has a growing membership that reportedly includes many of Abe’s Cabinet ministers and hundreds of national and local lawmakers.

The organization holds lectures and other events to spread its views and defends Japan’s wartime atrocities while accusing China and South Korea of lying or exaggerating their suffering. It also believes the U.S. postwar occupation brainwashed Japanese with guilt and that education since the war was self-degrading.


July 14, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

Asahi exit poll: 49% support constitutional amendment


Forty-nine percent of voters in the July 10 Upper House election said the Constitution should be amended, according to an Asahi Shimbun exit poll.

The survey also showed that 44 percent were opposed to constitutional amendment, a goal of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

However, the poll found that revising the Constitution was not the central issue for voters when deciding which party to support in the Upper House election.

It showed that 70 percent of voters in favor of constitutional amendment said they cast their ballots for the four pro-revision parties–Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, junior coalition partner, Komeito, Initiatives from Osaka and the Party for Japanese Kokoro–in the proportional representation portion.

However, 40 percent of those who said they oppose revision also voted for the four parties.

By age group, 55 percent of voters in their 30s supported revision, while 42 percent said it is not necessary.

Voters in their 70s were divided over the issue, with 40 percent backing revision and 43 percent opposed.

Of voters who cast ballots for the LDP, 32 percent did not support revision, while the comparable figure for Komeito, Initiatives from Osaka and the Party for Japanese Kokoro, totaled 36 percent, 35 percent and 31 percent, respectively.

Apparent discrepancies in voters’ stance on constitutional amendment and the parties they actually voted for means revision was not the deciding factor in making up their minds.

According to the poll, only 14 percent named revision as the most important issue in deciding their vote.

The issue cited by most of the voters, at 30 percent, was the economy and employment, followed by social security, at 22 percent.

Of voters who backed the LDP in the proportional representation portion, 5 percent said amending the Constitution was the most important issue. The rate for those who replied similarly was 4 percent for Komeito, 10 percent for Initiatives from Osaka and 15 percent for the Party for Japanese Kokoro.

Twenty-three percent of voters who voted for the main opposition Democratic Party and 34 percent who voted for the opposition Japanese Communist Party said that constitutional amendment was the most important issue.

The exit polls were conducted at 3,660 polling stations around Japan, and 182,646 valid responses were received.

July 11, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

Japan could change pacifist constitution after Shinzo Abe victory

Prime minister wins upper house elections, giving his coalition enough seats to push ahead with controversial changes


Shinzo Abe has called for a debate on rewriting Japan’s constitution, including an article renouncing war

Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has called for a debate on rewriting the country’s pacifist constitution after his Liberal Democratic party [LDP] and its allies secured a supermajority in upper house elections on Sunday.

The LDP, its junior coalition partner Kōmeitō, and several like-minded smaller parties and independent MPs now control two-thirds of the 242 seats in the upper house. The ruling coalition already has a similar majority in the more powerful lower house.

Conservative MPs have enough seats to push ahead with constitutional changes, including scrapping the war-renouncing article 9 – a prospect that has caused alarm in China and among many Japanese who value their country’s postwar pacifism. Any amendments passed in parliament would then require approval by a simple majority in a nationwide referendum.

Abe had studiously ignored the constitution issue during the upper house campaign, insisting that the election was an opportunity to reaffirm public support for his troubled economic policy, as he sought to capitalise on the lack of a credible alternative offered by the opposition.

The LDP won 56 of the 121 seats – half the upper house total – being contested, while Kōmeitō secured 14 seats. Abe had set a goal of winning a combined 61 seats.

But speaking soon after his landslide victory, Abe said his party had always been committed to rewriting the postwar constitution. The Asahi Shimbun newspaper quoted him as saying that he hoped deliberations by expert panels and a deeper public debate would lead to a consensus on which parts of the constitution needed changing.

The most controversial move would be a revision of article 9 to allow Japan’s self-defence forces to act more like a conventional army. The clause forbids Japan from using force to settle international disputes and restricts its land, air and naval forces to a strictly defensive role.

Rewriting the constitution, imposed by the US occupation authorities after the second world war, has been the ideological driving force behind Abe and other conservatives who believe it unfairly restricts Japan’s ability to respond to new threats such as international terrorism, an increasingly assertive China and a nuclear-armed North Korea.

However, Abe risks losing the political capital he has built over the past three and a half years if he is seen to be neglecting the economy in favour of constitutional reform.

“The key question will be whether he can carry out structural reforms,” said Nobuhiko Kuramochi, chief strategist at Mizuho Securities. “If Abe fails to do so, despite the political freedom he has gained, that will be negative for foreign investors’ appetite for Japanese stocks.”

Xinhua, China’s official news agency, described Sunday’s election result as a threat to regional stability, as it had given MPs who support constitutional reform an unprecedented advantage.

“With Japan’s pacifist constitution at serious stake and Abe’s power expanding, it is alarming both for Japan’s Asian neighbours, as well as for Japan itself, as Japan’s militarisation will serve to benefit neither side,” Xinhua said in a commentary.

Some analysts played down the prospects for change, noting that the loose collection of pro-reform parties and independents had yet to reach a consensus on which parts of the constitution should be altered.

“It’s the first time to have two-thirds in both houses of parliament, but you can’t find any issue on which the two-thirds can agree,” said Gerry Curtis, professor emeritus at Columbia University.

But Curtis added: “With these numbers … he [Abe] is going to want to see what he can achieve. That means less attention to the economy and a lot of spinning over the constitution.”

The LDP’s dovish coalition partner, Kōmeitō, is cautious about any change that would expand the role of the military, while the public remains deeply divided. An exit poll conducted by the Asahi on Sunday showed that 49% of voters supported constitutional revision, with 44% opposed.

July 11, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , , | 1 Comment