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Abe invites Osaka Ishin tieup in quest to revise Constitution

Kyodo

As part of his administration’s quest to revise the pacifist Constitution, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Sunday that he is willing to work on the issue with Osaka Ishin no Kai, an opposition party established by the city’s former mayor, Toru Hashimoto.

Abe has been a strident proponent of revising the national defense policy defined by the charter’s Article 9, which forbids Japan from using force to settle international disputes.

“It would be very difficult for the ruling parties alone to win two-thirds or more (of the Upper House). (But) there are parties that are favorable toward constitutional revisions such as Osaka Ishin no Kai,” Abe said in an interview with NHK that was held Saturday and aired Sunday.

Amendments to the Constitution require a supermajority of at least two-thirds of the members in each house of the Diet, and must then be approved by a majority vote in a national referendum.

Abe added in the interview that his ruling Liberal Democratic Party hopes to team up with parties like Osaka Ishin to initiate an amendment process in the Diet.

Osaka Ishin no Kai, formed in October and provisionally led by Hashimoto, is now headed by Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui. The party backs constitutional reform.

Abe plans to begin action in the Diet to initiate an amendment after this summer’s Upper House election.

In the same interview, Abe repeated his claims that he is not considering dissolving the Lower House for a rare double-election this summer with the upper chamber.

However, speculation has been rife that — with the opposition parties in utter disarray — Abe will call a dual election to take advantage their apparent weakness.

Many opposition candidates are expected to compete against each other, splitting the anti-Abe vote and making the odds of a united front emerging against the ruling coalition extremely unlikely.

On Saturday, LDP heavyweight Toshihiro Nikai, chairman of the party’s executive council, hinted to reporters in the city of Wakayama that a dual election might be held because a certain top government official was “thinking about holding one.”

“There is no question (the official) wants to hold the elections the same day.”

He did not name the official.

Nikai, however, poured cold water on the dual election idea.

“I’m opposed to it as I have said all along. We shouldn’t stir people’s feelings when there is no good reason” for holding the polls at the same time.

Despite Nikai’s objections, some LDP lawmakers, including Diet Affairs Committee chair Tsutomu Sato, have repeatedly brought up the possibility.

Nikai said the Abe administration must carefully weigh the idea since it would create a political vacuum between the dissolution day and election day, leaving the country vulnerable if disaster strikes.

Upper House polls are held every three years, with half the seats up for grabs each time. The prime minister can dissolve the more powerful Lower House and call a general election at will.

Dual elections have been held only twice, in 1980 under Prime Minister Masayoshi Ohira and in 1986 under Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone.

In both cases, the ruling LDP scored major victories in the Lower House and expanded its presence in the upper chamber.