The Daily Manila Shimbun


Full debate on constitutional revision seen

October 23, 2017

TOKYO- After political parties in support of constitutional revision cleared a key threshold of presence in the Japan's House of Representatives in the key election on Sunday, discussions on rewriting the national charter are expected to begin in full swing.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is likely to accelerate preparations to submit a draft revision proposal by his ruling Liberal Democratic Party to the Diet, Japan's parliament, by the end of this year, sources familiar with the situation said.

Still, Abe may face difficulty in gaining support for his proposal for adding language to the constitution's war-renouncing Article 9 in order to clarify the rationale of the existence of the Self-Defense Forces, as other parties showed a cautious stance on the proposal during the election campaign, the sources said.

The public is divided over Abe's proposal on Article 9. According to Jiji Press exit polls, 36.2 pct of voters support his proposal, more than 30.3 pct who oppose the idea, but 33.3 pct are undecided.

In Sunday's closely watched election for the all-important lower chamber of the Diet, four parties in favor of constitutional amendment--the LDP, its coalition partner, Komeito, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike's Party of Hope and Nippon Ishin no Kai--won more than a combined two-thirds majority in the 465-seat Lower House.

Any proposal to change the constitution needs to be approved by at least two-thirds of members in each of the two parliamentary chambers before it is put to a national referendum. More than two-thirds of members in the House of Councillors, the upper chamber, support revision.

In its campaign pledges, the LDP included four specific constitutional amendment proposals. They are recognizing the existence of the SDF under Article 9, realizing free education, making Japan better prepared for dealing with emergencies and canceling the integration of two pairs of sparsely populated neighboring prefectural constituencies in western Japan for the Upper House into single constituencies.

Having set a goal of putting a revised constitution into effect in 2020, Abe aims to submit the LDP's constitutional revision proposal to the Diet at an early date and work out a parliamentary proposal during next year's ordinary Diet session to put it to a national referendum, the sources said.

On television Sunday night, Abe showed a flexible stance on the timing of constitutional amendments. "We want to discuss the issue with the Party of Hope and other parties," he said.

In its election campaign promises, the Party of Hope said it aims to promote discussions on constitutional amendments, including a change to Article 9.

During the election campaign, however, Koike said she has serious doubts about Abe's proposal for adding a provision on the SDF to Article 9. Instead, she underlined the need for prioritizing the people's right to know and promoting decentralization of government.

Osaka-based Nippon Ishin, which supports a revision to Article 9, is putting more weight on decentralization of government and free education. Jiji Press