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Saturday, October 29, 2005

A new constitution for Japan translation

新憲法草案決定

The LDP New Constitution: maintaining the renunciation of war, affirming the right to self defense

(Translated by JapanVisitor from today's Mainichi Shimbun)

On the 28th the now almost 50-year-old Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) decided on the draft of a new constitution with the first meeting of its New Constitution Drafting Committee (chaired by Mori Yoshirou). Of Article Nine, which is the focus of the party’s attention, while retaining Clause 1 which renounces going to war, the draft deletes Clause 2, which at present renounces the use of armed force. It specifies the maintenance of the Self Defense Forces, virtually confirming the right of collective self defense that the constitution as currently framed forbids. While the Preamble to the draft spelling out its principles includes references to its status as an independent constitution and the people’s ‘duty to defend the nation by themselves’, it diverges greatly from the heavily conservative content of the draft that former prime minister Nakasone Yasuhiro [and now draft sub-committee chairman - Ed.] had drawn up. With its lack of any expressions about the revival of traditional culture and the like, it shows how much consideration has been given to the sensitivities of the Democratic Party of Japan and the New Komeito Party.

This marks the first time that the LDP has decided on a draft of constitutional change. The new draft, like the current constitution, consists of 99 articles. Mr Mori met with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on the 28th and came to a final decision on the Preamble and Article Nine. Various points of view were aired and debated at the drafting committee meeting afterwards, but Mr Mori eventually took matters into his own hands and made the final decision at a general meeting of the party policy committee.

The preamble continued to undergo changes up until the last minute. The draft that the chairman of the sub-committee, former prime minister Nakasone, submitted on the 7th was judged to be ‘emotive’ and was changed. Concerning patriotism and national defense, “The nation’s independence is maintained by the efforts of its patriotic citizens” has been dampened down to “We have a shared duty to support and protect ourselves with a sense of love for, responsibility towards and spiritedness for our country and society”. Again, references to such things as Japan’s traditional culture and the historical significance of the Meiji-era constitution have been eliminated. It propounds support of the symbolic rule of the Emperor and environmental protection.

Clause 1 of the Article that forms the main focus of the LDP's attention, Article Nine, was maintained as is from the current constitution in the first stage of the committee process in August. Clause 2 which prohibits the maintenance of armed force and the right to belligerency has been eliminated. It specifies the maintenance of the Self Defense Forces, virtually confirming the right of collective self defense with the stated aim of “defending the safety of the nation and the people for the sake of the country’s peace and independence”. It also makes provisions for international co-operation as “co-operative activities engaged in internationally for the preservation of international society’s peace and safety”. It gives virtual approval to the use of armed force overseas. However, all of this must be reconfirmed at the time when it comes to be drafted as basic law.

Also, while enjoining the people to ‘recognize that freedom and rights entail responsibilities and duties’ the draft includes such new rights as the duty of the government to explain itself, the right to privacy, and environmental rights. Furthermore, the principle of separation of church and state is mitigated regarding religious activities by the government and municipalities and, in consideration of the prime minister’s visiting Yasukuni shrine and the dispersal of lottery funds, certain religious activities are given approval. The present constitution’s prescription for constitutional change of ‘approval by a two-thirds majority in both houses of the Diet’ is reduced to ‘approval by more than half’.

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