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HOME  > Past issues  > 2020 September 30 - October 6  > PM Suga, the driving force behind change in official constitutional interpretation
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2020 September 30 - October 6 TOP3 [POLITICS]

PM Suga, the driving force behind change in official constitutional interpretation

October 4, 2020

The chief cabinet secretary is the linchpin to the Cabinet. Suga Yoshihide held the position for seven years and eight months and "justified" various misdeeds committed by the longest postwar government led by Abe Shinzo. Suga was the driving force behind the maladministration. In order to remove constitutional restraints, he excluded every objection, greatly weakening constitutionalism.

The Abe government in August 2013 replaced Yamamoto Tsuneyuki, the Cabinet Legislation Bureau director general at that time, with an aggressive supporter of Japan's right to collective self-defense abroad. Yamamoto told the press after his demotion that making changes to constitutional content without changing the Constitution would be "extremely difficult". Then, Suga at his regular press briefing attacked Yamamoto's view and made clear the Cabinet willingness to change the conventional interpretation through political initiative.

With the national security-related legislation being discussed in the Diet, more than 200 constitutional scholars in June 2015 jointly released a statement calling for the withdrawal of the set of bills. Suga in response counterargued, "There are other constitutional scholars who recognize that the national security-related legislation is not unconstitutional." However, he was able to name just three constitutional scholars who think that the war laws could be interpreted as "constitutional".

Abe and Suga created new panels to facilitate policymaking decisions under the leadership of the Cabinet Office and bulldozed through various questionable policies. In the control tower for diplomacy and military affairs "National Security Council", authority concentrated on the prime minister, the chief cabinet secretary, the foreign minister, and the defense minister. They decided on a policy to change the existing interpretation of the Constitution so that the government can enact a state secrets protection law and enable Japan to use the right to collective self-defense.

Hirashima Akihide was the head of the Internal Affairs Ministry's Local Tax Bureau but was demoted because he pointed out several problems of a preferential tax system. In a Sunday Akahata interview on September 29, he said, "Innumerable bureaucrats were shunted off by demotion or dismissed by Suga." The ex-bureau head continued to say, "Suga is the kind of person who believes that he was being defied if offered a different opinion by ministry officials. And as a matter of his honor, he forces them out of their position."

Suga himself in the November 2018 issue of the monthly magazine "Hanada" said that he had replaced the commissioner of the Financial Service Agency whom he did not like. He never troubles to conceal his heavy-handed handling of personnel affairs.

This is the very Suga who controls bureaucrats with the "If you defy me, you will be ousted" practice.

Past related article:
> Ex-high gov’t officials oppose allowing Japan to use collective self-defense right [August 27 & 30, 2013]
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