LDP-backed referendum on revising Constitution must include enfranchising 18-year-olds

Talks to start on lowering voting age

by Masami Ito

Staff Writer

The government will start talks next month on lowering the voting age from 20 to 18, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said Thursday.

Though long debated, no panel meeting has been held on the issue since April 2010.

The panel, Fujimura said, will be headed by a deputy chief Cabinet secretary and include other high-level officials from various related ministries. Though the issue will be taken up next month it is unlikely any bill will be submitted to the current ordinary Diet session.

Affecting an estimated 200 to 300 laws, it is unclear how soon the government would be able to revise the Public Office Election Law, let alone submit the bill to the Diet.

“It is a very, very difficult issue and needs to be thoroughly and carefully discussed,” Fujimura stressed.

“I think it would be extremely difficult to submit it to the current Diet session.”

Lowering the voting age is in line with a national referendum law that stipulates that those 18 and older can participate in determining whether to revise the war-renouncing Constitution.

If the voting age is lowered, it could also have an impact on the legal age for drinking and smoking, which is currently 20, the age of majority.

“There is a lot that needs to be discussed as there are many related laws as well as consistency with other systems to be considered and it is deeply connected to the younger generation’s rights and duties,” Fujimura said.

The referendum law was passed in 2007, when the Liberal Democratic Party was in power. The prime minister at the time, the conservative Shinzo Abe, was intent on revising the Constitution, which was drafted in 1947 under the Allied Occupation.

Although the LDP paved the way for the controversial revision, talks have stalled since the Democratic Party of Japan came to power in 2009.

The government panel was first launched in May 2007, following the passage of the referendum law.