Constitutional Change – Is Shinzo Abe Attempting a Legal Coup D’etat?
Professor, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies
Member of the House of Representatives, LDP
Language: The speech and Q & A will be in English and Japanese with English interpretation
For decades, Japanese conservatives have wanted the country to shrug off the constraints of its 1947 pacifist constitution. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has the best chance of any postwar Japanese leader to achieve this momentous goal.
During his first term as prime minister in 2006-7, Abe tried to pull Japan away from its pacifist stance by directly challenging Article 9. But the legal hurdles were too high: Constitutional change requires a two-thirds parliamentary majority in both houses and a public referendum. So this time he is moving toward "reinterpreting" the article to allow collective defense.
The move, and Abe's haste in trying to rush it through the Diet, has triggered criticism that the government is gutting the constitution and attempting nothing less than a legal coup d'etat. His supporters say Japan has ridden along for too many years on the coattails of the US and must shoulder a bigger share of its own defense burden.Abe seems increasingly confident that his goal will be achieved. His government is riding high in the polls thanks to the perceived success of his expansionary economic policies. Political opposition to the Liberal Democrats is emaciated and divided. The inexorable rise of China has convinced some that Japan must recalibrate to prepare for future conflict.
Frustratingly for Abe, however, his coalition government is saddled with a reluctant partner. The dovish New Komeito is supported by millions of Japanese precisely because of its pacifist credentials. The divided coalition has left the question of constitutional change hanging…for now.
Two seasoned experts have agreed to come and discuss this vital issue. Seiichiro Murakami is a former cabinet minister in the government and a rare outspoken critic of the government's constitutional plans. Murakami has compared Abe's constitutional reinterpretation to the Nazi's successful bid to bypass the Weimar Constitution. Narushige Michishita, is a well known commentator on military and security issues who says it is time to end what he calls Japan's isolationist stance in Asia. He is Director of Security and International Studies Program at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies.
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Professional Activities Committee
Seiichiro Murakami Narushige Michishita