Japan’s ruling party pushed contentious security bills through a legislative committee Thursday, catching the opposition by surprise and causing chaos in the chamber. Supporters say Japan should be able to defend itself from potential threats from China and North Korea.
Public opposition is running 54-29 against the bill according to the latest polls.
Video from inside the parliament yesterday in Tokyo showed government and opposition MPs swarm around a committee chairman as he held a controversial bill which proposes to increase the role of Japan’s military.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says the policy shift, which would mark the biggest change in defense policy since the creation of Japan’s post-war military in 1954, is vital to meet new challenges such as from a rising China.
In fraught scenes uncommon for Japan’s normally sedate parliament, opposition lawmakers earlier on Thursday climbed on top of each other in a bid to stop the chairman of a committee calling a vote on the controversial bills.
“If the bills pass, we will have to take part in wars all over the world with the U.S.” said Machiko Arai, a 68-year-old housewife, who took part in the demonstrations outside parliament.
Abe’s ruling bloc has an upper house majority, but major opposition parties have vowed to prevent a vote before parliament disperses on September 27 by using delaying tactics such as no-confidence and censure motions. Abe’s ratings have also taken a hit. They would have no impact on the stability of Abe’s government.
Some of the protesters were a bit more creative with their expressions of discontent.
Over the past few months, new faces have joined the ranks of protesters, typically made up of labor union members and graying left-wing activists.
This argument may be strategically reasonable, but it has met stiff resistance from the Japanese legal community, with what the L.A. Times describes as “a large majority of Japan’s legal scholars” believing the bill is unconstitutional.
Abe’s ruling party wants the bills passed by Friday to avoid a swelling of protests during an upcoming five-day weekend.
Katsuya Okada, head of the Democratic Party of Japan, said it was “outrageous” for Abe’s ruling block to rush a vote on legislation that has split the nation.