Abe pushes through new laws but faces opposition

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has gained the powers he needs to send troops to fight abroad after Japan's Parliament passed landmark security Bills into law in the early hours yesterday.

But the opposition will not give up on the matter. The issue is likely to surface in elections next year and a long-drawn-out legal challenge is expected to hobble any attempts by the government to make use of the new laws' provisions.

Citing the public's rift over the pair of laws, opposition parties say what has become the nation's major post-war security policy shift must be made a top issue in an Upper House election slated for next summer in the hope of "punishing" Mr Abe's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its coalition partner, the Komeito party.

To block the government from using the laws on the legal front, lawyers and constitutional scholars are planning to file lawsuits against the government over the legislation, arguing that it violates the war-renouncing Constitution.

"We oppose application and management of the laws. We are determined to take measures towards their abolishment and revision," Mr Susumu Murakoshi, president of the 36,000-strong Japan Federation of Bar Associations, said in a statement issued yesterday.

Mr Abe says the legislation does not alter Japan's commitment to an exclusively defence-oriented security policy in line with the Constitution, and that it is also fully legal in terms of international law.

"The legislation is necessary to safeguard the people's lives and peaceful way of living, and is aimed at preventing wars beforehand," he told reporters after the Upper House cleared the Bills with the backing of the ruling coalition and three minor opposition parties.

Asked about a majority of voters opposing the laws in opinion polls, he said he "would like to make increased efforts to explain the laws courteously and tenaciously" to win better public understanding.

Mr Katsuya Okada, leader of the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), criticised Mr Abe's push of the Bills through Parliament as sparking "a crisis for democracy".

He vowed to beat the coalition in next summer's polls. The ruling bloc holds a majority in both houses of the Diet.

Mr Okada said the DPJ will consider submitting a Billto reinstate the previous governments' self-imposed ban on collective self-defence, or defending security ally the United States and other friendly nations under armed attack.

Dr Koichi Nakano, a professor of political science at Sophia University in Tokyo, says he expects opposition party members to step up moves with academics, lawyers, students and others to start a campaign to vote out ruling party lawmakers in the election. "If the ruling bloc were to lose a majority in the Upper House, it would make it difficult for the government to gain Diet approval for sending the Self-Defence Forces abroad," he said, referring to Japan's military.

Dr Nakano noted that the LDP has failed to win a majority alone in the Upper House since 1989.

The new laws effectuate a Cabinet decision in July last year to allow Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defence under strict conditions, such as Japan's survival coming under threat. They also expand logistics support for the militaries of the US and other countries, and for participation in international peacekeeping missions.


This article was first published on Sept 20, 2015.
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