Sunday, May 6, 2007

The constitution revision blitz

Amaki Naoto has a fascinating post considering the national referendum age limit issue.

To summarize, the LDP draft passed by the Lower House stipulated that the age limit for voting in a national referendum on constitution revision will be twenty, same as for other elections. The rejected DPJ draft, meanwhile, called for lowering the voting age in a revision referendum to eighteen. This issue is still under discussion as the Upper House debates the bill.

Amaki wonders as to why the DPJ would want a lower voting age, when, he argues, Japan's impressionable youth have been "brainwashed" into becoming more right wing. He points to an exceptionally high turnout among Japanese in their twenties and thirties in the 2005 postal reform election, and notes that it is a "known fact that they supported Koizumi's stark politics." He further suggests that the LDP is working "meticulously" to cultivate support among younger Japanese. Interestingly, he also notes that the bill's inclusion of a three-year waiting period before revisions can be drafted is part of the LDP's PR strategy.

In any case, Amaki concludes that the DPJ is probably, for the most part, full of advocates of revising Article 9 anyway, implying that the whole debate about revision is a farce, driven more by the DPJ's electoral interests than by genuine disagreement with the LDP.

I don't disagree with his comments on the DPJ: constitution revision is yet another issue where the DPJ is on the reformist side of the matter, but is trapped between its beliefs and the need to act as a proper opposition party.

Meanwhile, I fear that in the absence of an effective political opposition, the Abe Cabinet will steamroll any opposition through its relentless repetition of the message that constitution revision is necessary and the postwar regime must be dismantled. After seeing the blitz that the cabinet launched leading up to Constitution Day, I can only imagine the impact a steady drumbeat of statements reiterating the need to change the "postwar regime" will have on public opposition to revision. In other words, it's the ol' drown-your-opponents-with-verbiage approach.

It's time that someone challenged Abe on his whole "changing the postwar regime, starting with the constitution" argument. Article 9 aside, does anyone really believe that the problems with the postwar regime lie in the postwar constitution, and not with the informal policy making mechanisms devised by the LDP and the bureaucracy since 1955?

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