The ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s task force to promote constitutional amendments has published key arguing points addressed during its discussions on proposed revisions to the Constitution.

The points concern the four topics the party mentioned in the constitutional amendment plank of its campaign platform for the Lower House election in October.

With regard to proposed revisions to war-renouncing Article 9, the central issue of the debate, the task force presented two options.

One is Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s proposal to enshrine the status of the Self-Defense Forces while maintaining the current two paragraphs of the article. The other calls for eliminating the second paragraph, which prohibits Japan from maintaining war potential, and clarifying the purpose and role of the SDF.

Under the plan some LDP lawmakers envision, the LDP would start work early next year on drafting its formal proposal through intraparty debate focused on the two ideas and then take steps for initiating the amendments and holding a national referendum, possibly by the end of the next year.

Abe is spearheading this initiative.

On May 3, Constitution Day, Abe broached the idea of adding a provision about the SDF to Article 9 and set 2020 as the target year for “the enforcement of a new Constitution.”

After the LDP took a drubbing in the July Tokyo metropolitan assembly election, Abe toned down his rhetoric, stressing there is no specific time frame for his constitutional amendment agenda.

In a Dec. 19 speech, however, Abe mounted a fresh push for his agenda, saying that enforcing a revised Constitution "would serve as a catalyst for creating a reborn Japan in (2020) a year when it hosts the Olympics and Paralympics.”

Abe said deeper discussions on the Constitution should encourage "debate on what form and existence of the nation is most desirable."

Although he reiterated there is no fixed time frame for the initiative, it appears that Abe, emboldened by the ruling camp’s resounding victory in the October election, had decided to step on the gas to accelerate the amendment drive.

Let us again argue our case with regard to this issue.

The authority to initiate a constitutional amendment rests with the Diet. Abe is overstepping the boundaries of political decency if he, the chief of the administrative branch of the government, is seeking to set a specific timetable for his proposal to revise the Constitution in an aggressive push for his political agenda.

Abe is emphasizing 2020 apparently because he wants to achieve the goal while he is in office.

He also seems to be intent on having the Diet initiate amendments while the ruling camp controls a two-thirds majority in both houses. The step requires “a concurring vote of two-thirds or more of all the members of each House.”

But the process of rewriting the Constitution should not be started simply on the basis of the prime minister’s political agenda.

Changes in society over time may offer a rationale for a review of the Constitution. But there are some basic principles that must be maintained in any debate on constitutional amendments.

The Constitution is a set of fundamental rules and principles to restrict state power and guarantee basic human rights of the people.

No change in the Constitution that violates these rules and principles is acceptable.

Aren’t there any effective ways other than constitutional amendments to deal with the new reality, such as revisions to other laws or budgetary measures?

Does it really make sense to pour so much of the limited political energy into this effort at a time when Japan is facing so many tough and urgent political challenges?

These questions need to be examined rigorously.

The mission of the Commissions on the Constitution of both houses of the Diet is to ensure sincere and careful debate on the issue in a manner transparent to the public.

The ruling camp should not be allowed to push through the initiative through unilateral actions.

If the Constitution does need to be amended, what is most important is that the people of Japan, the holder of sovereign power, understand and support the proposal.

Amending the Constitution by virtue of the ruling party's majority control of the Diet and causing serious division in society must not be allowed to happen.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 21