Opponents and supporters of constitutional revision held rallies across Japan on Thursday on the 71st anniversary of the supreme law coming into force.
With discussions on rewriting its war-renouncing article making little progress, rallies were held in Tokyo, Osaka, Hokkaido and other locations, with participants divided on the first-ever change to Japan’s postwar Constitution, a year to the day after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe abruptly called for the legal status of the Self-Defense Forces to be clarified in 2020.
Around 60,000 people took part in a rally held in Tokyo, demanding Abe refrain from amending the article.
“The prime minister should resign in order to protect the Constitution,” Hiroji Yamashiro, the head of the Okinawa Peace Action Center, at the meeting.
Yukio Edano, the leader of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, also attended the rally, criticizing Abe’s constitutional amendment drive.
In a rally in Sapporo, Hokkaido, Hideki Osada, the head of a local peace group, said it would be difficult to return the Constitution to its current form once it is revised.
“We have to block by all means amendment proposals in the Diet and protect Article 9,” he said.
Abe seeks to deepen debate on revising Article 9, which renounces war and bans the possession of military forces and other “war potential.”
But it is unclear whether his ambition will move forward smoothly amid his plummeting approval ratings and waning grip on power due to a flurry of scandals involving himself and senior government officials.
According to the latest Kyodo News survey conducted last month, 61 percent of respondents opposed any constitutional revisions under Abe.
The prime minister said in a video message at a meeting in Tokyo of supporters of constitutional revision that “now is the time” to move forward discussions on the amendment to justify the existence of the SDF.
He has argued that the lack of reference to Japanese troops in the Constitution leaves room for them to be regarded as “unconstitutional.”
Yoshiko Sakurai, a journalist and one of the organizers of the pro-amendment meeting in Tokyo, called for the need to push ahead with the revision “even for 1 or 2 millimeters,” citing the severe security situation surrounding Japan.
“It is necessary to show our commitment to protecting our country by spelling out the SDF” in Article 9, said Kazutaka Ishikawa, a 38-year-old participant in the meeting.