Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution has defined the country’s postwar international relations. The so-called no war clause ended the military’s hold on the Japanese state, limiting its role to the defense of the nation, and famously states the Japanese people forever renounce the threat or use of force as the means of settling international disputes.
The Constitution was designed to alter the balance of power in the country away from the militaristic elite that had led the country to its disastrous flirtation with imperial conquest.
But there has long been discontent with the Constitution among those on the right who view it as being a demeaning humiliation imposed on Japan by the occupying forces and who want to remove the constraints on the military. Their growing calls for constitutional revision have been swelled by those seeking reform to give more autonomy to local governments.
There is thus a groundswell building for amendments to the Constitution. This has been further fueled by Sunday’s House of Councilors election in which Japan’s ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito scored a resounding victory.
The triennial election, held in the immediate aftermath of the assassination of former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe who was the leading advocate of lifting the Constitution’s restraints on Japan’s military, was widely perceived as a touchstone for Japan’s pro-constitutional amendment forces to advance their political agenda.
It seems conditions have never been so ripe for the pro-constitutional revision forces to push ahead with their long-held political ambition.
This has triggered concerns among Japan’s neighbors which are alarmed at the prospect of Japan once again giving the control of state power to those in the sway of the country’s militaristic ethos.
Yet despite the overwhelming support in Japan’s parliament for rewriting the Constitution, it is still too early to say that the conservative forces in Japan will succeed in their bid to remove Article 9 as the majority of the public are still cautious about such a move, wary of where it might lead.
A recent survey shows that 59 percent of those polled believed that Article 9 should not be amended. A survey conducted by Japan’s public broadcaster NHK on May 3 also showed that only 35 percent of the respondents were in favor of changing the Constitution.
If the coalition puts political calculations above fulfilling their election promises on addressing domestic woes, it will only aggravate the dissatisfaction and mistrust of the Japanese people and further solidify public opinion against the constitutional amendment.
Hence, although Sunday’s election result may have buoyed the hopes of Japan’s right-wing politicians, their constitutional amendment hopes still look like a distant dream. That is something the world should be thankful for.
Editorial, China Daily