|Police and barricades outside the Diet.|
On December 14 last year, the Japanese PM called an early election. The reason for calling the election was that he wanted a mandate to delay the consumption tax increase and to make economic reform. In reality, the beleaguered economy has been sidelined in favour of unpopular restarting of nuclear power and the passage of the War Laws.
There have been protests throughout the year, first small and getting bigger. The 30th August saw an estimated 120,000 protesting in front of the Diet. That might seem like a modest number, but in reality there has been a stigma on political protest and making overt disagreement. Typically people look away. Politics is taboo in the education system. There is no source based history which presents different opinions of the same issue. You might find students rattling tins to raise money for UNICEF, but you'd never find a branch of Amnesty International in a state school.
Last night the government passed the laws at 3 am. The laws aim to override article 9 of the constitution which made Japan a country that was forbidden from waging war. Now Japan will be able to fight in the wars of its allies (Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria wherever suits the US, on whom Japan depends for "protection"). The overwhelming majority of Japanese people do not want the changes to occur, hence the protests. The crowds at the protests are diverse, at least by Japanese standards of diversity, but have a lot more young people than the nuclear protests. There have been two basic themes of the protests: Peace and democracy.
The government has legislated the ability to go to war in wars that are not directly affecting Japan. There has been very little explanation of the scope of the laws. Old people fear conscription. There was talk a while back of moving the start of the university year to September (from April) to align internationally (well at least with the northern hemisphere), and use the five month gap between school and university as national service. I haven't heard that recently. Personally, I am sceptical that there would be conscription, but that gap does give rise for concern. There is a general fear of militarization, especially but not only among the traditional left. It's ironic that the communists, who should in theory be the party of revolution, are actually the pacifists... In addition, Japan has recently changed laws to sell weapons. Deals between Mistsubishi Electric and Turkey to sell tanks have already been done. Concerns about militarization have been compounded by a troubling Secrets Act which has created almost unlimited possibilities for what can be declared a secret and is not overseen by an indpendent third party. These changes are reminiscent of the 1930s and there is a uneasiness that the government is moving towards militarism.
The second concern is that the process has been unconstitutional. There is a process for changing the constitution and it hasn't been followed. Even the government's own constitutionaladviser said the laws are unconstitutional. It's so audacious. And has come after the Deputy PM lauded the Nazis, and said Japan could learn from the way they were able to change their constitution before the people were aware.
Was very disappointed that ABC Australia missed the second point in their reporting today.
So that's what was going on at the National Diet.