自民新憲法原案 「緊急事態」を軸に改正論議を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Mar. 5, 2012)
Talks on revising Constitution should focus on emergencies
自民新憲法原案 「緊急事態」を軸に改正論議を(3月4日付・読売社説)

The ruling and opposition parties should take this opportunity to resume discussion on what shape the nation should take.

The Liberal Democratic Party's Headquarters for the Promotion of Revision to the Constitution has finalized a draft of its second set of proposals for rewriting the Constitution. The draft is a revised version of proposals the LDP announced in 2005.
It will work out a definite plan in April through discussions within the party.

We strongly praise the party's proactive stance toward revision of the Constitution.

Noteworthy in the draft is a new provision concerning times of emergency that gives the prime minister the authority to declare a state of emergency in such cases as an armed attack on the country, terrorism or a massive natural disaster.

The new provision would also enable the cabinet to create ordinances that have the same force and effect as laws, and enable the prime minister to issue orders to the heads of local governments accordingly during emergencies.

This provision also is meant to prevent such extrajudicial measures from violating people's fundamental human rights without justification.

It had been pointed out as problematic that the Constitution does not contain provisions about dealing with emergencies. Most countries have such clauses in their constitutions.


Learn from March disaster

Taking into account the lesson of the Great East Japan Earthquake, the government's crisis-control capabilities must be enhanced. It is an appropriate judgment to include stipulations about states of emergency.

With regard to national security, the draft preserves the war-renouncing Article 9, while adding one sentence that states the first paragraph of Article 9 "shall not prevent Japan from invoking the right to self-defense."
Concerning the Self-Defense Forces, the draft says a military will be maintained for self-defense.

On the subject of collective self-defense, the draft appears to clarify the position that the Constitution can be interpreted to allow the nation to exercise its collective self-defense.

The government's odd interpretation of the current Constitution as saying the nation "possesses the right to collective-self-defense but cannot wield it" has long been a major hindrance to boosting the effectiveness of the Japan-U.S. alliance.

It is a matter of urgency to enable the nation to wield its right to collective self-defense, without waiting for the Constitution to be revised.

It is disappointing that the draft lacks a provision calling for a review of the two-chamber system of the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors.


Diet system causes turmoil

The presence of the "too powerful upper house," which has almost the same functions as the lower house, has prevented the passage of bills and caused disarray in the divided Diet, as seen in the frequent submissions of censure resolutions.

Under the current Constitution, bills that have passed the lower house but failed to pass the upper house need to pass the lower house a second time with at least a two-thirds majority. Paralysis of the Diet's functions must be prevented by easing the requirement, for instance, from two-thirds to a simple majority.

The draft also said the number of seats in electoral districts for both houses of the Diet shall be fixed by "considering comprehensively" not only the population but also such factors as geography and transportation infrastructure. Depending on its interpretation, it might allow further widening of gaps in the value of a vote among constituencies.

In the Diet, both houses' deliberative councils on the Constitution began discussions last autumn. The Democratic Party of Japan's research panel on the Constitution also said it would discuss the state-of-emergency stipulations and the ideal form of the two-chamber system.

There should be more than a few points of discussion on which the ruling and opposition parties can compromise. We hope they will discuss the issues vigorously.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 4, 2012)
(2012年3月4日01時14分 読売新聞)

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