Japan protesters divided on calls for constitutional reform

[JURIST] Japanese activists demonstrated [Japan Times report] Sunday on Japan's 62nd Constitution Day to voice opposing views about an approaching referendum on the country's pacifist constitution [text; JURIST news archive]. Efforts to reform the constitution are particularly focused on Article 9 [text], which has been interpreted to bar Japan from maintaining military forces and from using force in international conflicts except in self-defense. A three-year public consultation period on possible amendments is set to expire in 2010, thus paving the way for a national referendum on the proposals [JURIST report]. Proponents of the reforms say the constitution is outmoded and restricts Japanese participation in international negotiations, arguing that the text was forced on the country following World War II [Mainichi Daily News report] and must be updated. A bloc of activists opposed to the reforms [JURIST report] fear that pacifist ideals will be lost in the amendments. A recent survey found that 64 percent of Japanese residents oppose [Xinhua report] an Article 9 amendment.

Under Article 96 of the Constitution, possible constitutional amendments must be approved by both houses of the National Diet by a two-thirds vote, and the changes must then be approved by a majority of voters in a national referendum. Japan has struggled in recent years to balance its constitution with international demands. In January, Japanese defense minister Yasukazu Hamada ordered the country's Maritime Self-Defense Force [JURIST report] to combat piracy [JURIST news archive] in the waters surrounding Somalia, despite concerns that combat could be prohibited by Article 9. In April 2008, a Japanese court ruled that the country's dispatch of air force troops in Kuwait is unconstitutional [JURIST report], but did not order the government to redeploy the personnel. Former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe called for constitutional reform [JURIST report] in 2007, arguing that the pacifist constitution does not reflect changes in the country's foreign and security policies.



 

About Paper Chase

Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

© Copyright JURIST Legal News and Research Services, Inc., 2013.