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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing for constitutional change. Yet he is playing the political huckster by proposing to first only fiddle with the amendment procedure in Article 96, lowering the threshold for the process to move forward from the approval of two-thirds of both houses of the Diet, as it currently stands, to a bare majority of the two chambers. In either case a national referendum would be required for the amendment to take effect.

Since Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party has enjoyed majority control of both Diet chambers for much of the past six decades, and bearing in mind that the referendum is unlikely to present a significant hurdle (for reasons discussed in last week’s column, “Tweak the Constitution now, think later?”), it is worth looking at the comprehensive amendment proposal the party published in April of last year, when they were still in opposition. The obvious conclusion is that Abe and his cohorts envision a two-stage process whereby after Article 96 is amended they can cram through some or all of the more controversial aspects of their constitutional agenda free from any bothersome super-majority requirement.

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