There are variety of national constitutional amendment procedures and it is difficult to say what is normal or rapid procedure. It would eventually all depend on who is initiating the reform, which is a universal feature. Japan’s Constitution has an article that sets out how to amend the constitution and it sets up a more difficult procedure for constitutional amendment than for normal legislation process.
However, Article 96 of the Japanese Constitution does not prescribe any procedures to amend the constitution. Thus, regarding the amendment procedure, the referendum law was passed on May 14, 2007. The referendum law has several problems, such as the lack of provision of the minimum voting rate. Even if the proposal for constitutional amendment is made, there are still doubts and procedural problems with the referendum process which is written in the Referendum Law, and this is a unique and universal problem of guarantee of proper procedures for constitutional amendment.
The right-wing advocates for constitutional amendment in Japan frequently argued the post-WWII Japanese Constitution was imposed by the GHQ (i.e. the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers). Since Prime Minister Abe Shinzo came into power in 2012, the Liberal Democratic Party (“LDP”) has been borrowing the currency of “imposed constitution” to bolster its agenda of constitutional amendment. This article tries to argue that the LDP’s strategy for constitutional amendment has two prongs: first, it functions like a populist campaign rather than a genuine constitutional commitment; second, electoral payoffs provides leverage for Abe to advance its own strategy of political economy, e.g. to enhance its control over bureaucrats, business and the media. Article 9 is a natural jump starter for the LDP to arouse the sense of national pride or national identity among Japanese citizens. In this vein, the politician pronounced for the citizens, claiming the supremacy of the “people.”
Constitutional protection of property has been considered as an essential element of liberal democratic constitution. However, since economic power is easily converted into political power, the protection of property has an aspect which contravenes democracy and political equality. Redistribution of wealth always involves a risk that governmental power would be abused. Thus, the constitutional design of property determines the success of democratization. Post-WWII economic reform in Japan is a good example to explore the constitutional design of property. After WWII, the drastic economic reform was implemented based on the idea that the concentration of wealth impedes democratization. Such economic reform was a constitutional moment just like an enactment of Constitution. This paper deals with two major questions: first, how the Japanese economic reform was justified under the post-WWII constitution; second, how the Japanese legal system could avoid the risk of abuse of redistribution.
Every constitutional projects are products of context because constitutional law is law of the nation. Political leaders also have their own dreams, interests and fetters of communities or family. Those peculiar traits make constitutional project contextual. However, I would draw not contextual concerns but more universal lessons from what’s going on in Japan around Prime Minister Abe’s constitutional amendment. These years, a number of political crises happened under the Abe administration. Every single one of these crises would lead to resignation of Ministers or Prime Minister if they happened before. But the Abe administration is still powerful. Why? It is partially because of a force of numbers he got in the Diet. On the other side, his project of constitutional amendment itself shall be another source of his power. Democratic defect of the administration probably would make up its illegitimacy by touching the highest source of legitimacy of the nation, the Constitution of Japan.