EDITORIAL: Abe’s silence on Constitution suggests another election trick
（社説）参院選 改憲の是非 正面から問わぬ不実
Parties have effectively started campaigning for the July 10 Upper House election, with their leaders delivering speeches on the streets and their platforms now available to the public.
Conspicuously missing from the ruling camp’s campaign is the argument for constitutional amendments.
It is widely known that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s biggest political goal is to revise the postwar Constitution.
During the latest Diet session, Abe repeatedly expressed his desire to pursue this goal. “I intend to seek public support during the campaign for the Upper House election,” he said. “I wish to achieve (the goal) while I’m in office.”
But Abe has not referred to the issue even once in his campaign speeches so far.
In sharp contrast, Katsuya Okada, president of the main opposition Democratic Party, has made the issue a top priority in his campaign strategy.
Okada has clearly expressed his party’s opposition to Abe’s bid to revise war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution as one of the party’s two central campaign promises and discussed the issue with great vigor in his speeches.
The proposal to amend the Constitution is a grave political issue the Japanese public has never faced as a real possibility in the postwar era.
If Abe wants to achieve this goal, he should cast the proposal as a principal campaign topic.
However, Abe has been oddly quiet about this issue, a radical change from his eloquence in arguing for the initiative.
If he is trying to prevent the touchy issue from becoming a major campaign topic, he should be accused of acting in an insincere manner.
In a 26-page booklet on its campaign platform, the LDP refers to constitutional amendments only in the last two items.
The party only discusses the issue in regard to the two new combined constituencies created by combining two prefecture-based electoral districts to narrow vote-value disparities. These constituencies will be introduced in the Upper House election.
The LDP pledges to reassess the appropriateness of the method and explore options to eliminate such cross-prefecture constituencies, including a constitutional amendment.
“We will promote debate on the issue at the Commissions on the Constitution at both (Diet) houses and seek cooperation with other parties while trying to build broad public consensus for constitutional amendments,” the party’s platform says.
These passages appear to suggest that the LDP plans to start its constitutional amendment initiative with changes to provisions related to combined constituencies.
But LDP policy chief Tomomi Inada has not endorsed this view, saying there are various opinions about the approach.
The LDP has thus left it unclear to voters which constitutional provisions it will try to change and in what ways.
The LDP’s junior coalition partner, Komeito, doesn’t even touch on constitutional amendments in its campaign platform.
Komeito chief Natsuo Yamaguchi has said amendments will not be a key campaign topic for the Upper House election because “there has been no mature debate” on the issue.
Neither the LDP nor Komeito is willing to make a straightforward appeal to the public to support the proposal to rewrite the Constitution.
Under these circumstances, even if the two parties and their political allies win the two-thirds majority in the chamber needed to initiate the formal process of constitutional revision, they must not be allowed to start pursuing the initiative with sudden zeal after the election.
The Abe administration has a history of deliberately sidestepping debate on divisive policies during election campaigns. After the ruling camp wins a majority, however, the administration suddenly starts pushing through such policies by claiming it has won a public mandate to do so.
The state secrets protection law and new national security legislation, which were enacted in 2013 and 2015, respectively, are two examples of the administration’s sneaky way to achieve its policy goals.
The four kanji characters representing “constitutional amendments” are written in small print at the end of the LDP’s campaign platform. They may be a sign of the party’s intention to use such tactics again to push through its initiative to amend the Constitution. We should not allow the party to do so.