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Article 96 revisionists short of two-thirds majority in Upper House

JIJI

In Sunday’s election for House of Councilors, three political parties advocating a revision to Article 96 of the Constitution failed to secure the two-thirds majority required under the article for proposing a constitutional amendment.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the opposition forces Your Party and Nippon Ishin No Kai (Japan Restoration Party) together won 81 of the 121 seats contested in the Upper House poll.

The three parties plus New Renaissance Party, another pro-amendment party which did not field candidates in the triennial Upper House election this time, now hold a total of 143 of all 242 seats in the chamber, including their uncontested seats, short of a two-thirds majority, or 162 seats.

If New Komeito, the LDP’s ruling coalition partner, joins the four, the five parties’ combined seats in the chamber will come to 163, narrowly above the two-thirds majority.

Conservative members of the Democratic Party of Japan may also join the pro-amendment camp.

Under Article 96, a two-thirds majority is required at both the Upper House and the House of Representatives to make proposals for constitutional amendments.

The LDP, Your Party and Nippon Ishin, which aim to ease the rule, already have more than two-thirds of the 480 seats on the Lower House. New Renaissance Party has no seat in the chamber.

New Komeito is advocating adding new ideas to the Constitution such as environmental rights and regional autonomy while sticking to the three principles of pacifism, popular sovereignty and respect for basic human rights.

In the party, there is persistent opposition to revising Article 96, but some members are calling on the party to consider accepting an easing of the two-thirds majority rule for clauses not related to the three principles.

To gain New Komeito’s support for an Article 96 amendment, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga on Sunday signaled acknowledged the party’s sgoal to add new clauses to the Constitution.

Still, the LDP and New Komeito are widely divided over possible major constitutional amendments. In particular, New Komeito is strongly opposed to the LDP’s proposal to declare in the Constitution what has been a long taboo but nonetheless the reality — that the Self-Defense Forces are a standing military.