Extended Diet Session: Starting Anew on Security Bills

The government and ruling party have entered proceedings for a drastic extension of the current Diet session from its usual closing date of June 24.This is no doubt connected to the security bill currently under consideration.

At first, the Abe administration described a plan in which there would be 80 or more assigned hours of deliberation in a special lower house committee related to the bill. The bill was then to be passed by June 24 and enacted by early August in extended Diet sessions.

However, due to issues such as jeering and heckling of Abe, the special committee was suspended a number of times and the deliberation period has not been completed. Also, in the lower house’s Constitution Committee, three constitutional scholars have deemed the “bill to be unconstitutional,” which seems to have deepened suspicion of the bill by the Japanese public and led to a drastic determination that the session must be extended.

It appears the Abe administration is now aiming to lock into a strategy of cooperation with the Japan Innovation Party in order to pass the bill. Steamrolling the vote by including the Japan Innovation Party in amendment negotiations and not seeing it through with your own Liberal Democratic Party and the New Komeito majority coalition seems like a weak strategy.

As there are other important bills to be deliberated besides the security bill, there is a need for an extension to the current session. It might be practical to reemphasize the fact that the session will be extended for deliberations in order to also deepen understanding towards the security bill.

However, there is criticism from constitutional scholars, who say that “approval of the use of collective self-defense is unconstitutional,” and this criticism strikes at the very root of the security bill. Unless the Abe administration gives up on collective self-defense and rewrites the bill in full, it will be tough to change an “unconstitutional” assessment to a “constitutional” one. This is not an issue which can be cleared up with a simple revision.

The reason Abe is so hung up on the security bill now in the Diet is no doubt due to a speech he gave while visiting America in April in which he promised to have it done by summer. Prioritizing a ‘promise to America’ over the apprehensions of the Japanese citizens is putting the cart before the horse.

There is no need to drastically extend the Diet session using the security bill as the basis. Even worse, aiming to enact laws too early by steamrolling votes over and over again using a ‘power in numbers’ strategy should be out of the question.

The Abe administration should, with humility, open its ears to the scholarly determinations of the bill’s “unconstitutionality,” close the Diet session, and once the bill is scrapped, start over, this time by having a careful discussion about the Constitution itself.

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