"Has Constitutional Change Hit the Buffers?"
Professor of Constitutional Law, Waseda Law School
Professor Emeritus, Keio University
Monday, June 15, 2015, 12:30 - 14:00
Constitutional change is surely the most vexed, divisive political issue facing Japan. Last year, the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe controversially reinterpreted Japan's war-renouncing Article 9, opening the way for Japan to engage in collective defense with its allies. Until then, governments had consistently interpreted the constitution to mean that Japan was banned from cooperating with other militaries.
As the government debates security legislation in Diet to exercise the right to collective defense, ordinary Japanese are increasingly confused by the government's explanation, and worried that the country is shrugging off the pacifism that has kept it out of wars for decades. Polls show that most oppose the potentially far-reaching changes proposed by Abe.
Into this debate came three constitutional scholars, who stunned the nation last week when they declared the government's bills unconstitutional. The three had been invited to a June 4th session of the House of Representatives to discuss the legislation. Remarkably, one – Yasuo Hasebe - had been invited by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and was considered a safe pair of hands for the government.
So where now for constitutional reform? The government has dropped a plan to pass the bills the end of the current parliamentary session on June 24th, a recognition that it faces mounting opposition to its attempt to push the bills through parliament. Worryingly for Abe, popular opposition is growing: A poll in the conservative Yomiuri newspaper this month said 60% oppose passing the bills in the current Diet session, up 11% from May.
The FCCJ is delighted to welcome two of the three constitutional scholars who testified at that House of Representatives session. Professor Yasuo Hasebe and Professor Setsu Kobayashi have been scathing in their criticism of the bills. Kobayashi says Abe is urging the public "to give carte blanche to the government over the operation of the military. It is the idea of a dictatorship." Come along and hear what they have to say on this vital topic.