September 15, 2015 (Mainichi Japan)
Editorial: Ruling coalition wrong to put security bills to quick vote
社説：安保転換を問う 週内採決方針 議会政治壊すつもりか
"We shouldn't resort to the force of numbers to suppress opposition. We should humbly reflect on what we do, and work hard to persuade opponents to accept our proposals in an effort to form a consensus."
This is what the late former Prime Minister Masayoshi Ohira, who was a member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), once said.
Ohira, who called for "politics of consensus" and "politics conducted in unison with the public," also said, "Those who do not support us (the LDP) are also members of the public."
This is what political leaders should respect in all eras, and is the basic principle of parliamentary democracy.
As 60 days have passed since the security-related bills were referred to the House of Councillors following their passage through the House of Representatives, the lower chamber can now pass the bills into law in a second vote by a two-thirds majority.
Under Article 59 of the Constitution, "failure by the House of Councillors to take final action within 60 days after receipt of a bill passed by the House of Representatives, with time in recess excepted, may be determined to constitute a rejection of the bill" by the upper chamber. The same clause stipulates that a bill voted down by the upper chamber can be passed into law by the lower house in a second vote by two-thirds of members present.
One cannot help but wonder how Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is desperate to ensure that the bills will be passed into law during the current Diet session, takes Ohira's words. It's like Abe is thinking, it would be unavoidable to enact the legislation even if it cannot win public understanding.
As the prime minister says, in the end, any decision is made by a majority vote in parliamentary politics. However, deliberations have clarified that the security-related bills in question should not become law. First of all, the executive branch of the government failed to provide a convincing explanation to the public in response to experts' arguments that the bills would constitute a violation of the war-renouncing Constitution. Nor did the government clearly explain why Japan needs to exercise the right to collective self-defense, which means coming to the aid of allies under armed attack even if Japan itself is not attacked. The purpose of the bills has become increasingly unclear as deliberations progressed.
There are flaws in the methods of deliberating the bills as well.
In late May, shortly before the lower chamber launched deliberations on the security bills, the Mainichi Shimbun in an editorial commented that the prime minister should change his attitude in refusing to listen to opposition and calls for prudence in enacting security legislation.
However, it is regrettable that the prime minister only held black-or-white, friend-or-foe sorts of discussions during Diet deliberations on the bills.
Moreover, Prime Minister Abe showed his arrogance by saying things like, "Ask your questions quickly" and "Never mind such a thing," to interrupt questions by opposition legislators.
Yosuke Isozaki, an adviser to the prime minister, also stated during a meeting in his home constituency, "Legal stability is irrelevant," suggesting that consistency between the security bills and the war-renouncing Constitution is unimportant. Numerous members of the general public interpreted his remark as revealing the government's true intentions.
In a study session organized by junior LDP legislators, one member remarked that advertising revenue should be cut off to media outlets that are opposed to the bills. There is a growing tendency to suppress opposing opinions.
The bills were drafted based on the Abe Cabinet's decision in July 2014 to reverse the government's longstanding interpretation of the Constitution in a limited way to open the way for Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense. However, Prime Minister Abe declared during the campaign for the December 2014 lower house race that his decision to postpone the planned consumption tax hike was the key point of contention. With regard to the security bills, the LDP only stated in the last half of its some 300 campaign pledge topics that security legislation would be swiftly developed to ensure seamless responses to contingencies.
In his policy speech at the outset of the current Diet session in February this year, the prime minister only briefly said the government would aim to be able to ensure a seamless response to any situation. On the other hand, Abe pledged in his speech before U.S. Congress in late April that Japan would enact security legislation by summer. At the time, the government had not even submitted the bills to the Diet.
What Abe has done shows that he makes light of the Diet, elections and the general public. He would be extremely self-righteous if he were to believe that the public has given him carte blanche by giving the LDP a majority in the lower chamber.
Prime Minister Abe cited the amendment made to the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty in 1960 when his grandfather Nobusuke Kishi was prime minister to justify the security legislation. "At the time, the revisions were criticized as Japan could be dragged into war, but history has proved that the amendment wasn't wrong," Abe said. He has repeated similar remarks.
LDP Vice President Masahiko Komura said, "Japan couldn't have set up the Self-Defense Forces (SDF), revised the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty or enacted the Act on Cooperation with United Nations Peacekeeping Operations and Other Operations if Japan had relied on public opinion of the moment."
Demonstrations protesting against the bills, mainly those around the Diet building, have been expanding regardless of participants' affiliation with political parties and other organizations. Many participants are apparently wary of not only the contents of the bills but also the Abe government's high-handed political method, and are dissatisfied with the Diet's failure to stop the prime minister's reckless move. Opinion polls conducted by various news organizations show that a majority of members of the general public are opposed to the bills. Komura's remark suggesting that he regards such public opinion as momentary apparently demonstrates that the LDP has lost its humility.
The security policy as well as the social security policy is something that should not drastically change whenever the government changes. Therefore, it is necessary to form a broad consensus on these policies.
The government submitted the first bill aimed at deploying SDF personnel overseas to the Diet in 1990, but the LDP decided to scrap it after officials failed to explain how it could conform with the Constitution. At the same time, the LDP agreed with its now ruling coalition partner Komeito and the now defunct Democratic Socialist Party to consider opening the way for Japan to dispatch SDF troops exclusively for the purpose of participating in U.N. peacekeeping operations. The move paved the way for the enactment of the United Nations Peacekeeping Operations law.
There are some points in the security bills over which the ruling coalition could have compromised with the largest opposition Democratic Party of Japan and other opposition parties, except for clauses on the right to collective self-defense. Nevertheless, Prime Minister Abe only urged opposition parties to choose between voting for and against all the bills, and failed to try to form a broad consensus.
If the current situation is to continue, it would shake the foundations of Japan's parliamentary politics. The government should abandon passing the bills into law during the ongoing session and start over from scratch.
毎日新聞 2015年09月15日 東京朝刊