New Komeito surveys assembly members in Hiroshima Prefecture: 45 of 53 respondents support approval of exercise of right of collective defense

“Be prepared to dissolve partnership”
“Supporters must not be betrayed”
“Interpretation is strange”

by Daigo Kanezashi and Eriko Shintani, Staff Writers

On June 27 the party prefectural headquarters of New Komeito revealed the results of a survey of its prefectural and municipal assembly members on changing the interpretation of the Constitution to approve the exercise of the right of collective defense. According to New Komeito, all 45 of the 53 assembly members who replied to the survey expressed opposition to such a change. Some called for negotiations on the issue with the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), knowing that it might mean dissolving the coalition partnership. Party representatives from throughout Japan are scheduled to meet in Tokyo on June 28. Juichi Tagawa, secretary general of New Komeito’s Hiroshima headquarters and a member of the prefectural assembly, will report on the survey results at the meeting. “I want to halt the trend toward approval,” he said.

Members of New Komeito serve on the prefectural assembly and on 19 of the 23 municipal assemblies in Hiroshima Prefecture. On June 20, the party’s prefectural headquarters called on these members to offer their opinions on changing the interpretation of the Constitution. Comments, either written or verbal, were provided by all six of the New Komeito members on the prefectural assembly and 39 members on 18 municipal assemblies, including all eight on the Hiroshima municipal assembly and all four on the Kure municipal assembly.

Mika Kusaka, who represents Hiroshima’s Naka Ward on the prefectural assembly, said, “I am firmly opposed to authorization [of the exercise of the right of collective defense]. As a party of peace, New Komeito must make a smart decision that it can take pride in.”

Ryoichi Oguma, a prefectural assembly member representing Fukuyama, said, “I had hoped the party leadership would enter into discussions with the LDP after listening to all of its members, including those outside Tokyo. It’s premature [to reach substantive agreement between our two parties].”

According to Mr. Tagawa, members of municipal assemblies have expressed various opinions on the issue, one saying, “As a party of peace, New Komeito must not betray the expectations of its supporters.” Another said, “It’s strange to interpret the pacifist Constitution in a way that would allow Japan to go to war.” Yet another said, “Real peace won’t come about through the use of force.”

In some cases comments that assembly members had received from supporters were included with their surveys. One supporter asked the party to bring the “runaway” administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe under control. Another expressed concern that Japan would be subject to criticism from foreign countries.

“Assembly members in Hiroshima feel strongly about peace,” Mr. Tagawa said. “I want national party headquarters to understand that they will be subject to close scrutiny by assembly members from outside the Tokyo area at the meeting on the 28th, and I will state my opinion that they must hold off on any action until agreement is reached.”

(Originally published on June 28, 2014)