Scuffle in Japan upper house as panel approves controversial military bills (VIDEO)
Japan’s upper house panel has given the green light to new legislation allowing the armed forces to conduct warfare abroad, for the first time in 70 years, since the end of WWII.
Proponents of the new bill and opposition MPs scuffled over the controversial legislation on Thursday. They pushed and shoved each other, and a committee chairman was surrounded. Members of the opposition blocked the parliament’s doorways and packed the corridors in protest.
"Is the ruling party listening to the voices of the public? You can do whatever you want to do because you have a majority - is that what you think?" opposition lawmaker Tetsuro Fukuyama said, reportedly on the verge of tears.
The special committee on the security legislation of the upper house had to repeatedly delay voting through Wednesday night.
The Associated Press reports that ruling party representatives caught the opposition by surprise and a senior opposition leader later said they would not accept the vote, which happened without them knowing.
There was also a ruckus on the streets of Tokyo, where many thousands of anti-military protesters rallied in front of Japanese parliament, protesting against controversial legislation allowing the deployment of troops abroad for the first time since WWII. An estimated 13,000 people rallied outside parliament headquarters in Tokyo in the evening, with 13 of them arrested for “obstructing officers,” The Guardian reports.
The new national defense bills passed the lower house of parliament in July and have been up for debate in the upper house ever since. The voting in the lower house was also accompanied by a series of protests.
The majority of Japanese people oppose the militaristic bills. A media survey published by Asahi Shimbun newspaper on Monday found that 54 percent of respondents opposed the bills, with just 29 percent in favor.
PM Shinzo Abe's government maintains the revised legislation is vital for dealing with the modern challenges Japan is facing.
Opponents of rewriting pacifist legislation say the amendments violate Japan’s constitution and could lead to Tokyo getting involved in warfare abroad.
The prime minister realizes the new legislation is unwelcome by many politicians and population.
“It is true that support [for the legislation] has not spread,” the Asahi Shimbun cited PM Abe as saying in the Upper House earlier. Still, he added that his “determination for passage through this Diet session is unchanged.”
“The bills are needed because the security situation around our country is changing dramatically,” Jun Matsumoto, a lawmaker in Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, said in a speech prior to the lower house vote in July.
Now that the bill has gained the approval of the special committee of the upper house it will be voted on. Considering that Shinzo Abe's ruling bloc has the majority in the upper house, it is likely the legislation will be approved by parliament.
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.