A senior lawmaker of the opposition party Osaka Ishin no Kai expressed a willingness Tuesday to help Prime Minister Shinzo Abe build a force that can win more than two-thirds of the seats in the House of Councilors in next summer’s election to initiate amendments to the Constitution.
The party “will cooperate positively,” Secretary-General Nobuyuki Baba said at a news conference, referring to Abe’s recent remarks that his ruling coalition is willing to cooperate with Osaka Ishin no Kai and other small opposition parties in his quest to revise the U.S.-drafted charter.
Speaking in an interview with NHK aired Sunday, Abe said it “would be difficult for the ruling parties alone to win two-thirds or more” of the 242-seat Upper House in the election likely to take place in July.
He went on to say that there are parties that are positive about constitutional amendments, such as Osaka Ishin no Kai.
In response to these comments, Baba said Tuesday that his party would be happy to join such an endeavor.
However, Baba ruled out the possibility that his party will cooperate with Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner, Komeito, during the election itself.
Osaka Ishin no Kai was formerly led by Toru Hashimoto, a high-profile lawyer who until recently was mayor of Osaka and is an advocate of revising the war-renouncing Constitution.
Hashimoto is known to have close ties with Abe and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga.
Toshio Ogawa, secretary-general of the Upper House caucus of the Democratic Party of Japan, criticized Abe for “failing to specify where and how (the Constitution) should be revised.”
Abe should present to the public what kind of constitutional amendments his government intends to make, Ogawa told a separate news conference.
A cautious view was also expressed Tuesday from within Abe’s governing coalition about making the constitutional amendment issue a focus in the summer election.
LDP Vice President Masahiko Komura told reporters during his visit to Moscow, “We aren’t in a situation where people would accept it as a major focal point.”
Under Article 96 of the Constitution, revisions to the supreme law can be proposed by two-thirds of the members of each chamber of the Diet and must be approved by a majority in a referendum.
At present, the LDP and Komeito have a two-thirds majority in the House of Representatives and a majority in the Upper House. Half of the 242 Upper House seats come up for election every three years.