• Kyodo

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The ruling Liberal Democratic Party has approved a bill to revise the referendum law for changing the Constitution, paving the way for enactment during the current Diet session.

The crux of the planned bill, when was endorsed Wednesday at a joint meeting of LDP panels related to the matter, is to lower the minimum voting age from 20 to 18. The LDP, headed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, will likely submit it to the Diet with other parties in early April.

Amending the pacifist Constitution, which has never been revised since its promulgation in 1946, has drawn criticism from some opposition lawmakers.

A proposal for constitutional revision can be initiated with the support of at least two-thirds of the lawmakers in both Diet houses, and must be endorsed by a majority in a referendum.

The LDP and its coalition partner, New Komeito, have agreed with three opposition parties — the Democratic Party of Japan, Your Party and People’s Life Party — to jointly submit the bill, raising the likelihood of Diet passage before the current session ends June 22.

Other opposition parties are not united in their response. Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) has put off a decision on whether to support the bill, while the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party are demanding the bill be scrapped.

If approved, the bill will go into effect four years later, allowing civil servants to take part in organizational efforts to rally support for or opposition to proposed constitutional amendments.

The law was initially enacted in 2007 when Abe was in power, but necessary legislative steps, such as the envisioned lowering of the voting age, has never been realized.

Some conservative LDP lawmakers remain dissatisfied with the revision, fearing the power of labor unions’ organizational activities against changing the Constitution.

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