Groups gathered in Shibuya and across Japan over the weekend to protest Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s proposed security bill. The legislation gives power to the Japanese military that allows for an expansion of their abilities and calls for collective self-defense, which is the right to defend their allies. If the legislation is adopted, Japan’s SDF (Self-Defense Forces) will join the U.S.A and other military allies during war time.

Shinzo Abe spearheads a historic decision to overturn Japan’s status as a peaceful nation under pressure from the United States and the growing threat of neighboring Asian nations. Mr. Abe and the Vice President of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party feel that they’re following the Japanese Constitution’s logic and this is a matter of national security.

In 1947, following World War II, Japan’s Constitution came into effect. Article 9 states that the Japanese people forever renounce war and force as a means of settling International disputes. Japan no longer has the right to maintain a military larger than one capable of defending itself. For 68 years, Japan has maintained peace. According to a Nikkei survey, 57% of eligible voters are against the passage of the proposed security bill, which defies Article 9 of their constitution, and only 25% in favor of the bill.

Opponents of the new security bill believe there are pressing national concerns which should take precedence over growing a military force. Japan’s social services are struggling, paying out two and a half times the amount of the country’s total economic earnings due to medical care and social security for a retired population that’s larger than it’s working population. Young voters, scholars, and groups like SEALDs believe their government efforts and tax dollars would be better spent on issues such as regulating “Black Businesses” who overwork and underpay employees, the widening income gap or Japan’s staggering issue of a plummeting population.

The public’s aversion to the LDP’s interpretation of their constitution has lead to a suspension of four lawmakers who blamed the media for weak public support and encouraged imposing financial punishments on news organizations. The deadline for decision in the Diet has been extended from June 24th to September 27th over pressure from protest groups and the media.

 

*Photo credit to Kjeld Duits