The prime minister of Japan who likes to play tank commander wants to change the Article 96 of the Japanese Constitution as the first step to rewrite the entire Constitution which he and his cohort firmly believe was pressed on to unwilling Japan by the US occupation army (known as GHQ in Japan) under General Douglas MacArthur (whose nicknames included "Gaijin Shogun").
What's the Article 96? It's about Constitutional amendment requiring two-thirds of each House of the National Diet. Abe's LDP and two other so-called opposition parties including the boy-wonder's Japan Restoration Party want to make it a simple majority.
From the English version of the Japanese Constitution, from Prime Minister's Office website:
Article 96. Amendments to this Constitution shall be initiated by the Diet, through a concurring vote of two-thirds or more of all the members of each House and shall thereupon be submitted to the people for ratification, which shall require the affirmative vote of a majority of all votes cast thereon, at a special referendum or at such election as the Diet shall specify.
Amendments when so ratified shall immediately be promulgated by the Emperor in the name of the people, as an integral part of this Constitution.
Of course, in order to amend the Article 96, Abe needs two-thirds of both Houses, which he think is totally feasible. There is even a talk of simultaneous elections of the Upper and Lower Houses in July.
Abe's first target after they successfully ditch the two-third requirement in the Article 96 will be the complete rewrite of the Article 9 "Renunciation of War".
As it exists:
RENUNCIATION OF WAR
Article 9. Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.
In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.
According to the LDP's draft, Abe wants to change this into (my translation from the LDP draft and existing Article 9):
Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people
foreverrenounce war as a sovereign right of the nation, and the threat or use of force won't be used as means of settling international disputes.
and ditch the second half entirely, insert "the right of collective self-defense" instead so that Abe can send Japanese soldiers to fight alongside the "allies" even if Japan is not being attacked, and create a new clause that defines "National Defense Forces"
The bellicose noise, with the photo of Abe saluting (sort of) from the tank, is getting loud enough that even the foreign media has started to write about the worries over Abe's push for changing the Constitution.
From Bloomberg News (5/1/2013; emphasis is mine):
Japan’s Abenomics Haunted by Ghost of General MacArthur
By Isabel Reynolds & Takashi Hirokawa
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s drive to revise Japan’s pacifist constitution for the first time risks alienating voters who support his economic agenda and dividing his coalition government before July elections.
Abe aims to make it easier to amend the constitution, a first step in plans to beef up the military at a time when Japan is mired in territorial disputes with China and South Korea. His Liberal Democratic Party is forecast to win the upper house race, potentially giving him the two-thirds majority in both chambers needed to alter the charter.
Overhauling a document imposed by U.S. General Douglas MacArthur’s occupation force after World War II has been a goal of LDP politicians, including Abe’s grandfather, since the party was founded in 1955. While polls show the public backs Abenomics, his strategy to resuscitate the world’s third-largest economy after more than a decade of deflation, a majority of voters don’t rate constitutional revision as a priority.
“The growth strategy can only be accomplished with sustained attention,” said Koichi Nakano, a political science professor at Sophia University in Tokyo. “It’s a monumental task in its own right. If he takes up more nationalistic causes and Abenomics is not looking good, this could lead to a loss of authority after the election.”
Abe backs an LDP proposal to alter the constitution so it asserts the right to possess armed forces for self-defense. To implement that, he is first seeking to change Article 96 of the charter to allow amendments to be made with a simple majority in each house, rather than the current two-thirds. Any revision must also face a public referendum.
“Constitutional change is coming closer to reality,” Abe told reporters on April 19. “I want to change Article 96 to put the constitution back in the hands of the people.”
While 50 percent of the public approves of Abe’s policies to boost growth, only 6 percent favor his bid to change the constitution, according to an April 16 Asahi newspaper poll. A survey in the Mainichi newspaper six days later found 7 percent of respondents picked the constitution as the most important issue in the upper house election, compared with 35 percent for the economy. None of the newspaper surveys provided a margin of error.
“The constitution is different from any other law,” said Setsu Kobayashi, a law professor at Keio University in Tokyo who favors constitutional change while opposing Abe’s plan. “Every country makes it hard to amend, because a nation’s foundations should not flip over with every passing hysteria.”
The LDP draft would also make it a “duty” not to damage the “public interest” or interfere with “public order.” The clause has sparked concern with junior coalition partner New Komeito, which is backed by a pacifist Buddhist sect. While a Yomiuri survey published today shows almost all LDP lawmakers favor changing Article 96, Komeito wants to keep the existing constitution and add new rights for citizens, according to the party’s policy chief Keiichi Ishii.
“Our understanding is that a constitution is intended to allow citizens to limit the powers of the state,” Ishii said. “It seems odd to include duties.”
Komeito has a loyal vote-gathering system that has benefited the LDP, said Steven Reed, a professor of political science at Chuo University in Tokyo. The party, which has supported the LDP for more than a decade, has 31 members in the 480-seat lower house and 19 in the 242-seat upper chamber.
“If Komeito left the coalition, the LDP would be in deep trouble,” Reed said. “That takes a lot of votes away from their pockets.”
(Full article at the link)
I think Abe knows his so-called three-prong economic strategy will end in disaster. What better backup plan than war to deflect the public anger over the economic failure?
If Abe and LDP get their way, there will be no "eternal and inviolable" fundamental human rights in Japan (Article 11). You will have to behave, in order to be allowed such rights by the government.