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LDP aims to revise Constitution by 2017

by Mizuho Aoki

Staff Writer

A key member of the Liberal Democratic Party said Tuesday he wants the party to achieve its long-held goal of revising the Constitution within the next two years, arguing the 68-year-old charter should be updated to adapt to a changing domestic and international environment.

Speaking at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo, Hajime Funada, who heads the LDP’s body to promote revising the Constitution, said he would like to see it amended in stages beginning with less contentious topics, such environmental rights, that are more likely to be supported by other political parties and the public.

War-renouncing Article 9 would be revised after completing the first wave of revisions, he said.

“Amending Article 9 is the main theme of (the LDP’s) constitutional revision. But as the public opinions over the issue is split, more careful discussion will be needed within and outside the Diet,” Funada said during a press conference at the FCCJ.

“As for the first amendment, although I cannot give you a clear time line, I hope to realize it within the next two years,” he said.

Amending the Constitution is one of the top goals of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. His LDP party’s draft revision of the charter, unveiled in 2012, said Japan should have the right to maintain a military, which is currently banned under Article 9.

The LDP is reportedly setting its sights on holding the first-ever national referendum on revising the Constitution after the Upper House election in summer 2016, where it hopes to win a two-thirds majority of seats together with its junior partner, Komeito.

Any change to the Constitution must be approved with majority support in a national referendum. But to hold the referendum, the LDP needs to garner the support of two-thirds of lawmakers in both chambers of the Diet.

The ruling LDP and Komeito coalition currently holds more than two-thirds of the Lower House seats. But Komeito, which is more pacifist and is backed by the lay Buddhist group Soka Gakkai, opposes changing Article 9.

As part of the party’s campaign to revise the charter, the LDP is seeking cooperation from other parties, hoping to draft constitutional amendments with their input through the Commission on the Constitution in the Upper and Lower Houses.