Japanese Elections

Nach der Wahl zum japanischen Oberhaus (Sangiin) am 10. Juli 2016
Source:  Japan Focus, August 1, 2016, Volume 14 | Issue 15 | Number 8

Japanese Elections: The Ghost of Constitutional Revision and Campaign Discourse

Noriko Manabe

While the high drama of the Brexit vote and the U.S. presidential election has grabbed international headlines, Japan has quietly completed an election that may also have far-reaching implications. In the elections for the Upper House of the Diet (Japan’s parliament) on July 10, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its coalition partners won 162 seats, which, together with Diet seats not up for election and the seats of sympathetic but unaffiliated members, give the coalition a two-thirds majority in the Upper House. It already had a two-thirds majority in the Lower House.

A two-thirds supermajority in both houses is the threshold needed to initiate a revision to Japan’s Constitution, pending approval by a majority of voters in a referendum. This Constitution has never been amended since its inception in 1947. Since it was a product of the Allied Occupation, the ruling LDP has wanted to change it since the party was founded in the 1950s—an aim shared by the current prime minister, Abe Shinzō. The possibility of dismantling Article 9, in which Japan renounces war outside of self-defense, has received the bulk of press attention ever since the Abe Cabinet reinterpreted the Constitution to allow for “collective self-defense” of international allies in July 2014; this act set off a series of nationwide demonstrations, culminating in the Students Emergency Alliance for Liberal Democracy (SEALDS) all-night protests in front of the Diet as the Security Laws were passed in September 2015. While the LDP has not clarified which constitutional revisions they will seek, its intentions extend well beyond Article 9: As Lawrence Repeta has noted, the LDP’s blueprint for constitutional revision, last published in April 2012, would change not only most of the articles but also the overriding tone of the 1947 Constitution.

Television news coverage of the campaign ....

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