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Jersey number refers to prime minister, not Constitution: Abe

JIJI, Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had to dispel suspicions Sunday that a Yomiuri Giants uniform he received as a gift at the People’s Honor Award ceremony was linked to his plan to weaken Article 96 of the Constitution.

The jersey he received bears the number 96.

“The jersey number is in tribute to me being the 96th prime minister,” Abe said, responding to a reporter who asked him whether it was related to his amendment bid. Article 96 sets the voting requirements for altering the pacifist charter.

Abe’s Cabinet is the 96th formed since the first prime minister, Hirobumi Ito, appointed the first one in 1885. But Abe isn’t the 96th person to become prime minister.

According to the website of the Prime Minister’s Office, a total of 62 individuals, including Abe, served as prime minister during this time.

Abe received the autographed No. 96 jersey from former Giants stars Shigeo Nagashima and Hideki Matsui after presenting them with the People’s Honor Award at Tokyo Dome.

At the ceremony, Abe said he hoped the award would lift people’s spirits and contribute to an economic recovery.

Meanwhile, Abe told reporters the same day that it is necessary for his Liberal Democratic Party and coalition partner New Komeito to discuss “in a respectful manner” his proposal to water down Article 96.

New Komeito, supported by Buddhist voters, is extremely wary about making it easier to rewrite the Constitution, which was drafted under the heavy influence of the Occupation forces after Japan lost the war.

“Public debates over the issue have not deepened yet, and we have not yet gained sufficient support,” said Abe.

Article 96 states that any initiative to revise the Constitution must be backed by at least two-thirds of the members of each house in the Diet, and receive an “affirmative vote of a majority of all votes cast” when it is presented in a public referendum.

The LDP plans to push constitutional revision as one of its pledges in the Upper House election this summer. Its long-held goal is to revise war-renouncing Article 9.