• Kyodo

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The Democratic Party has demanded Prime Minister Shinzo Abe retract his proposal for amending the Constitution, claiming he has intervened in a process that should be left to the Diet.

The war-renouncing charter has never been amended since its promulgation in 1947.

On Thursday, during the Constitution Commission’s first meeting since Abe made the proposal, former disaster management minister Masaharu Nakagawa said Abe had overstepped his authority.

“It is the Diet that has the right to initiate a constitutional revision. Prime Minister Abe’s remarks have therefore been a serious infringement of the legislative process,” the DP lawmaker told the Lower House panel.

“We ask for the commission to adopt a resolution to lodge a stern protest against Prime Minister Abe and to retract his remarks on this issue,” he added.

A confrontational mood unfolded during the deliberations despite efforts at the outset by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s Eisuke Mori, who chairs the panel, to appease the opposition by promising to “build on careful discussions between the ruling and opposition parties” and work for “fair and harmonious proceedings.”

Abe’s proposal, made in a video message shown May 3 at a gathering of pro-amendment lawmakers, mentions his desire to insert a passage legitimizing the existence of the Self-Defense Forces into war-renouncing Article 9 and to have the revision take effect in 2020.

The proposal has upset several Diet members, especially in the LDP — which Abe leads — who have been discussing ways to craft potential amendments for years.

The LDP and its allies, including Komeito and pro-amendment opposition parties, hold the two-thirds majority required in both houses of the Diet to initiate a national referendum on amending the supreme code.

But gaining a broad consensus that includes the Democratic Party is now believed to be vital to winning popular support to pass something as sensitive as a constitutional referendum.

At the Constitution Commission meeting Thursday, Seiken Akamine of the Japanese Communist Party joined the Democratic Party in blasting Abe’s remarks as “undue intervention” in issues that should be handled by the Diet.

Akamine also said the supreme law is the starting point for Japan as a pacifist country after it lost World War II, and warned that any revision to the war-renouncing article will totally change the nature of the Constitution.

Some LDP members hit back, saying Abe did nothing wrong because he made it clear he was speaking as the president of the LDP and not as the head of the government in the video message.

A senior LDP member separately said Thursday that the conservative party again plans to compile another amendment proposal.

Amending the Constitution was a key objective of Abe’s grandfather, former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi. It is also a stated goal of Abe and his LDP, which believes Japan should pen its own Constitution to replace the one drafted by the U.S.-led Occupation after the war.

The Constitution hasn’t been revised since it took effect in 1947, and no bid has been made to initiate the formal amendment process because it is so difficult to propose an amendment in the Diet, much less launch a national referendum.

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