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Japan: Communist Party Accepts Emperor’s Speech at Opening Ceremony of the Diet as Constitutional

(Jan. 4, 2016) Kazuo Shii, Japan’s Communist Party (JCP) Secretary, met with Tadamori Oshima, Speaker of the House of Representatives, on December 24, 2015, and informed the speaker that JCP members would attend the next opening ceremony of the House. Shii also requested on behalf of the JCP that the ceremony be reformed. (Norihisa Hoshino, JCP to End Boycott of Diet Opening Ceremony Attended by Emperor, ASAHI SHIMBUN (Dec. 25, 2015).)

JCP members have boycotted the opening ceremonies of the Parliament for a long time. The reasons were:

(1) The JCP considers the formality of the ceremony to be inappropriate: the Emperor sits at a higher place than House members and favors members with his words. The JCP thinks that this is against the spirit of the current Constitution, which places sovereignty in the people, not the Emperor, unlike the previous Constitution.

(2) The Emperor’s speeches have included political statements (allegedly, approval of the policies of the United States government and of Japan’s ruling party) in the past. This is unconstitutional, in the JCP’s view, because the Emperor is prohibited under the Constitution from performing political acts. (JCP to Attend the Opening Ceremony of the Diet, While Continuing Demanding Democratic Reform, AKAHATA (Dec. 25, 2015) (in Japanese).)

The reason for the change of attitude, Shii stated, is that Japanese emperors have not made political statements for more than 30 years; therefore, the issue of constitutionality has been resolved. Regarding the formality of the ceremony, he indicated, the JCP would continue to promote reform. (Id.)