Protests Rage in Tokyo as Abe’s Security Bills Head to Vote

Isabel Reynolds & Takashi Hirokawa
Bloomberg : July 14, 2015

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s bills to expand the role of the military will go to a lower house vote Thursday, after weeks of debate that has eroded his support and sparked opposition protests that echo those that toppled his grandfather more than half a century ago.

The bills were approved Wednesday in a special security committee session marked by jostling, shouting and even tears from placard-holding opposition lawmakers that almost drowned out the chairman’s voice. They are all but certain to pass due to the ruling coalition’s two-thirds majority. If the upper house refuses to take up the bills, a second vote in the lower house can pass them into law with a two-thirds majority.

They legislation enshrines in law Abe’s 2014 reinterpretation of the pacifist constitution and would allow Japan to defend other countries as part of a strategy to balance a rising China. Media polls show the majority of voters are opposed to the changes and disapproval of the cabinet now surpasses approval.

Abe’s determination to ram the laws through parliament risks a further fall in support from a public skeptical of extending the military’s remit, and exposing cracks in his ruling Liberal Democratic Party. Even so, it will help firm up defense ties with the U.S., and allow him to focus on economic policy in elections for the upper chamber next year.

“There will be an uproar within the ruling coalition,” independent political analyst Minoru Morita said of the likely fallout from the legislation. “The Abe administration will get through the crisis, but go into a difficult period.”

Opposition Protests

Organizers of demonstrations outside the parliament building said 20,000 people attended a protest on July 10, and hope 100,000 will take to the streets over the next three evenings. Tokyo police were unable to provide an estimate of numbers for either last week’s rally or a projection for protests this week.

In 1960, massive rallies were led by students and trade unions against the ratification of a security treaty with the U.S. The demonstrations, which sometimes turned violent, helped bring about the resignation of Abe’s grandfather Nobusuke Kishi as prime minister.

(read the full article at Bloomberg)