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Thursday, September 17, 2015

A Brief Overview of the Security Bill

A struggle breaks out during the lower house vote

Yesterday, during a Parliament meeting in the lower house of Japan's National Diet - The House of Representatives - politicians threw themselves over a committee chairman in an exasperated effort to prevent the reading of bills which threaten to bring unprecedented historical change to Japan's peace adoption policies that have been in place since 1947.

The bills would in essence lift restrictions on Japan's ability to sustain a military that would be capable of combat overseas. It further stipulates that Japan would would have the ability to send soldiers into conflict zones in order to aid or assist allies as the government saw fit. Initial opponents of Abe's security bills contest that it would violate Article 9 of their longstanding constitution known as either the "Postwar Constitution" (戦後憲法 Sengo-Kenpou) or the "Peace Constitution" (平和憲法 Heiwa-Kenpou) which was in part written by The United States of America as a member of the Allied Occupation after World War II. The article in question minces no words about its intended effect.

"Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign 
right of the nation and the threat or use of force as 
means of settling international disputes"

Abe's majority party, The Liberal Democratic Party, has long denounced Article 9 as being out-dated and not fit for a so-called modern world. He has cited the escalation of China's military and strength as a nation, and even the recent murder of Japanese hostages by the Islamic State militants (ISIS) as necessary reasons for Japan requiring sovereignty over its defense policies. 
Abe awaits the decision
Militaristic sentiments are hardly new for Abe or his administration. In 2013 he raised tensions by paying respects at Yasukuni Shrine which is most notable for being the memorial site of Japan's fallen soldiers including all those who were tried as war criminals as a result of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. It was an act which earned scorn from China, Korea, and Taiwan, for appearing unapologetic towards the war and even the American government for elevating tension in East Asia.

The security bill has passed the first level of Japan's bicameral system - The House of Representatives. Though many had hoped it would somehow be halted there, none were likely surprised. 

The House of Representatives
 In order for this legislation to be completely passed in full it will require passing both the lower and upper house. The lower house as you can see below is dominated by Abe's party (LDP, green) with an overwhelming 291 seats. The lower house requires a simple majority (currently 238 votes) to move a bill to the upper house. Abe is also supported by the Koumeitou party (yellow) which provides a potential 35 votes on top of his party. Even though the bill already moved past the lower house, this is an important point to note.    
The House of Councillors

The House of Councillors, despite being known as the upper house, is actually less powerful overall. It has a total of 242 seats of which Abe and his supporting party maintain 134 with 114 from the LDP, and the additional 20 from Koumeitou (green and yellow respectively). With only 122 votes being required from the upper house, it seems quite likely that Abe will finally push forward with his highly unpopular security bill.

But should it halt at the House of Councillors it will be then be kicked back down to the House of Representatives where it could either be debated further before being voted on again and sent back, or outright refused. In the latter case, the lower house has the ability to reject the upper house's decision and push a bill into motion by a 2/3 majority vote once it has been sent back. 

Looking at the numbers again of the lower house we see that there are 475 total seats. The LDP and Koumeito combined account for 325 of those votes. A small calculation reveals that the controlling party maintains 68% of seats in the House of Representatives - just enough to make it possible should it be kicked back down provided there is full support from both parties, which is nearly guaranteed. 

The upper house now has the floor and will debate the security bill for a further 60 days before it goes to a vote. 

Amid public demonstrations in the tens of thousands outside of Parliament it will be a troubling time for a country that seems largely intent on avoiding war once again.