ANKARA – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has urged opposition groups Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and Your Party to help him revise Article 96 of the Constitution to make it easier to amend the supreme code.
“I’m asking for cooperation in forming a majority” to revise the article, which sets the rules for modifying the Constitution, Abe, currently on an overseas tour, announced Friday at a news conference in Ankara.
Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party pledged to revise Article 96 in last December’s House of Representatives election, which it won handily thanks to public frustration with the then-ruling Democratic Party of Japan.
Article 96 requires a two-thirds majority vote in both chambers of the Diet to pass an amendment, which is then put to a national referendum. The LDP wants to reduce the Diet requirement to a simple majority.
New Komeito, the LDP’s Buddhist-backed junior coalition partner, is cautious about revising Article 96. “I respect New Komeito’s stance and hope to continue discussions with them,” Abe said.
Watering down Article 96 would allow his party to take on its long-held goal of altering war-renouncing Article 9.
Separately, sources said Friday that the LDP is thinking of drafting a revision to allow Japanese as young as 18 to vote in national referendums on constitutional amendments.
The LDP plans to submit a bill to revise the national referendum law in an extraordinary Diet session expected this autumn, after the House of Councilors election in July.
The law, enacted in May 2007, already says Japanese 18 or older can vote on constitutional amendments. But a supplementary clause calls for keeping the eligibility age at 20 until both the minimum adult age stipulated in the Civil Code and the minimum voting age in the Public Offices Election Law are lowered to 18 from 20.
Gen Nakatani, secretary general of the LDP’s constitutional amendment task force, clarified his intention to make 18 the eligible age for referendums at a party meeting in Tokyo on Friday.
During his visit to Saudi Arabia last week, Abe told reporters that he aims to clear all issues on the referendum act before seeking to amend Article 96.