A proposal to enhance the state’s power during emergencies could lead to government overreach and erosion of local autonomy.

Why is it necessary to create a provision to give the central government such expanded authority to direct local governments during emergencies?

What kind of situations does the government have in mind for invoking the provision? The legislation raises so many doubts and questions that can only be cleared up during Diet deliberations on the proposal.

The Diet will soon start considering the bill to amend the Local Autonomy Law. The amendment provides for a “special case” during situations that “significantly impact the safety of the nation,” where, if particularly necessary to protect the lives of citizens, the central government can direct local governments.

Currently, the government’s authority to issue directives to local administrations is based on specific laws like the livelihood protection law or the disaster countermeasures basic law and can only be invoked for humanitarian reasons or to expedite processes.

The proposed amendment would remove these restrictions, potentially granting the central government unchecked emergency powers.

The central government would also be able to intervene in local governments’ own “administrative activities,” over which they have a high degree of discretion, potentially undermining the principles of local self-government outlined in the Local Autonomy Law.

The bill was drafted in line with a recommendation by the Local Government System Research Council, an advisory panel to the prime minister. However, the panel did not have sufficient in-depth discussions on the necessity of such measures or many other related questions before compiling its proposal.

The Diet needs to delve into the potential implications of these issues during its deliberations on the bill.

First, the government should describe specific situations where it would exercise the authority to direct local governments and offer examples of directives it would issue in such cases.

Simply referring to large-scale disasters and the spread of infectious diseases does little to help visualize how the system will work. While the government claims it is difficult to exemplify unanticipated events, changing the law without a clear understanding of how it would affect operations on the ground is unreasonable.

Another issue is the lack of checks and balances. Although the bill includes a procedure to consult local governments beforehand, as requested by the National Governors’ Association, it obliges the central government only to “make efforts” to do so, casting doubt on its effectiveness.

It is not the only point of contention. The proposal would allow the central government to exercise its expanded powers merely through a Cabinet decision. Given that the legal power could be exercised against local government wishes and intentions, legislative involvement, such as in the form of Diet resolutions, should be considered at a minimum.

It is also unclear how to align this legislation with the principle of devolution and decentralization. With the 2000 omnibus decentralization law, the relationship between the central and local governments was set as “equal and cooperative,” with the principle that involvement by Tokyo in local administrative affairs should be minimized.

From this point of view, it should be questioned whether this initiative is a reversion to a “hierarchical” relationship between the central and local governments.

Another question is whether the revision runs counter to the spirit, if not the letter of the Constitution, which guarantees and institutionalizes local autonomy.

The Diet needs to address these concerns during its deliberations.

Since the bill was submitted to the Diet last month, a legion of prefectural and municipal assemblies in various parts of the nation have adopted official statements calling for careful deliberations. There is no sign of broad local support for the initiative.

Citing an increasingly tense and fraught security environment surrounding Japan, the government has been advancing policies that effectively erode local decision-making power. A prominent example of this is its push, in the face of fierce local opposition, to construct a new U.S. military base to take over the functions of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa Prefecture.

Critics fear this initiative is a simply a prelude for the government to establish an emergency provision in the Constitution to deal with security crises. If such motives are indeed behind this legal change, the bill must not be allowed to pass.

--The Asahi Shimbun, April 20

QOSHE - EDITORIAL: Many disturbing implications in bill to strengthen state’s control - The Asahi Shimbun
menu_open
Columnists Actual . Favourites . Archive
We use cookies to provide some features and experiences in QOSHE

More information  .  Close
Aa Aa Aa
- A +

EDITORIAL: Many disturbing implications in bill to strengthen state’s control

26 0
20.04.2024

A proposal to enhance the state’s power during emergencies could lead to government overreach and erosion of local autonomy.

Why is it necessary to create a provision to give the central government such expanded authority to direct local governments during emergencies?

What kind of situations does the government have in mind for invoking the provision? The legislation raises so many doubts and questions that can only be cleared up during Diet deliberations on the proposal.

The Diet will soon start considering the bill to amend the Local Autonomy Law. The amendment provides for a “special case” during situations that “significantly impact the safety of the nation,” where, if particularly necessary to protect the lives of citizens, the central government can direct local governments.

Currently, the government’s authority to issue directives to local administrations is based on specific laws like the livelihood protection law or the disaster countermeasures basic law and can only be invoked for humanitarian reasons or to expedite processes.

The proposed amendment would remove these restrictions, potentially granting the central government........

© The Asahi Shimbun


Get it on Google Play