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2014 March 5 - 11 [POLITICS]

Local gov’ts withdraw support for pro-Constitution meetings

March 7, 2014
In concert with the Abe government’s move to revise the war-renouncing Constitution, some municipalities have recently decided to discontinue their support for citizens’ meetings to call for the protection of the supreme law.

In Kobe City, an organizing committee consisting of civil groups has held an annual meeting on May 3 to commemorate the 1947 enforcement of the Japanese Constitution. As always, they plan to stage a rally on that day to reflect on and think about the role of the Constitution.

The city government backed the gathering in 1998 and in 2003. At the end of last year, members of the organizing committee made a request to the city authorities for endorsing this year’s meeting. In February, however, the mayor and the city’s chief education officer notified them of their rejection of the request.

In the written response, the mayor claimed that giving support to this kind of gathering could undermine the city’s “political neutrality” as there are arguments for and against a constitutional revision. The chair of the board of education stated that he made the decision by taking into consideration the “recent social situation” in which the constitutional issue has ballooned into a major political issue.

Chikuma City, Nagano Prefecture, also backed up similar meetings hosted by a local branch of the Article 9 Association in 2007 and in 2008. However, the city authorities replied to the branch in January that they are not going to stand behind this year’s gathering in which Tokyo University Graduate School Professor Komori Yoichi is scheduled to give a lecture on the Constitution.

In his response to the request, the mayor insisted that if his city gives backing to the meeting, it could compromise “administrative impartiality” because the lecture’s subject is involved in a matter that “splits public opinion in two”.

Regarding these moves, Kobe Gakuin University Graduate School Professor Kamiwaki Hiroshi noted that Article 99 of the Constitution imposes on public officials, including the prime minister and leaders of local governments, the obligation to respect and uphold the top law. “Refusing to back up gatherings of this sort because of ‘political neutrality’ goes against the constitutional duty. If they do so in line with PM Abe’s desire to reinterpret the pacifist Constitution, it amounts to relinquishing local autonomy,” he stressed.

Past related article:
> JCP will do its best to shatter Abe’s intent to exercise collective self-defense right: Shii [February 14, 2014]
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