Prime Minister Abe Shinzo said something peculiar in the Diet yesterday.
He was responding in House of Representatives Budget Committee to a question regarding the Liberal Democratic Party's plans to amend Article 96 of the Constitution. Article 96 mandates that any alteration of the Constitution be ratified by 2/3rds of all sitting members of both Houses, followed by a national referendum. Prime Minister Abe and his party want to lower the threshold in the Diet votes to 3/5ths or even lower.
When asked about the reason to amend Article 96 and lower the threshold, the Prime Minister replied, "It is just common sense for a person to think it strange that if just slightly over 1/3rd of Diet members are opposed to something then we cannot amend the Constitution."
(Link – J)
When the Prime Minister says "strange" (okashii) what does he mean? Strange as in wrong or unfair? Strange as in unbalanced and threatening? In everyday usage okashii is dismissive and has a strong association with sickness or a wrong having been done.
And what are we to make of the laying of the mantle of "common sense" (joshiki) upon what is no more than the Prime Minister's personal opinion?
One can understand the statement "Requiring a 2/3rds majority in both Houses is stupid." Saying that it is inefficient is also comprehensible.
However, a dismissive dumping of the nation's basic law as odd and contrary to regular thinking? Based upon what standard? What is the "normal" against which one should measure the offending article?
The PM would probably want to short-circuit a discussion of why requiring a 2/3rds majority in both Houses is such a bad thing. For regular Diet business having a 2/3rds or even a 60% majority requirement would indeed be nuts. For amending the Constitution, however, it seems a reasonable hurdle.
Of course, the PM does not like the Constitution, most deeply because it was drafted by Occupation staffers, demoting the Emperor and enshrining a defense-only military posture -- but also because it stands in the way of his running the country as he sees fit.
That Abe Shinzo the man and even Abe Shinzo the Diet member should not like the Constitution is acceptable, if a bit lacking in reflection in the latter case ("I hate this Constitution that gives me my job!").
However, the standards of behavior for a leader of a democratic country are a bit higher than for the simple member of the legislature. Mr. Abe seems somewhat confused about the responsibilities inherent in the position he is occupying -- and on the importance of a nation's leader having an open mind.