The Daily Manila Shimbun


Abe gunning for constitutional revision with eye on longest tenure

November 3, 2017

Tokyo- Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is gunning to achieve his long-cherished ambition to revise Japan's constitution, as he eyes the possibility of becoming the longest-serving prime minister in the country.

Abe is trying to cement his power base in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in order to win reelection to a third term as party president, which would pave the way for such a long rule by Abe.

His attempt, however, may be undermined if he fails to live up to election pledges and suffers a decrease in public support. The risk does not look ignorable given that his disapproval ratings surpass approval in some public opinion polls.

"We'll pour our hearts and souls into pushing forward with our policies and producing results," Abe told a press conference after the launch of his new cabinet Wednesday. "By turning the people's support into strong power, we'll be entirely dedicated to our work."

In the Oct. 22 general election, the LDP won 284 of the House of Representatives' 465 seats, securing a single-handed majority in the chamber for the third straight time, following the 2012 and 2014 polls.

Ever since the LDP was established in 1955, Abe is the only LDP president who has achieved such a strong result in three consecutive Lower House elections.

Abe is the fifth-longest-serving prime minister after spending 2,139 days in office as of Thursday, including the period of his first administration about a decade ago.

If he is reelected to a third three-year term as LDP president in a party race set for autumn next year, he will be on track to become the longest-serving prime minister by overtaking Taro Katsura, who was in office for a record 2,886 days in total in the early 20th century.

On proposed constitutional amendments, Abe told the press conference that he will try to build "a broad-based consensus," stressing his position of not rushing to realize constitutional amendment proposals by the Diet, Japan's parliament.

Before the Lower House election, Abe was widely viewed as aiming to realize such proposals in 2018. He now seems to think there is sufficient time for discussions in a calm atmosphere after the election.

Against the background, an LDP executive speculates that a national referendum on constitutional revisions may be held at the same time as the next election of the House of Councillors, the upper chamber, set for 2019.

For now, the focus will be on the consensus-building process at the LDP's Headquarters for the Promotion of Revision to the Constitution.

Abe seeks to add a provision on the Self-Defense Forces to the constitution's war-renouncing Article 9, while former Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba is opposed as he endorses the party's 2012 amendment draft that calls for the creation of national defense forces.

Abe appointed former Secretary-General Hiroyuki Hosoda, leader of the LDP faction linked to Abe, as head of the party's constitutional revision panel, and Vice President Masahiko Komura, one of Abe's close allies, as special adviser at the same panel. Jiji Press