• Kyodo

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe gave his constitutional amendment quest a push on Saturday by saying he wants his ruling Liberal Democratic Party to submit its new proposals during the extraordinary Diet session likely to be convened this fall.

In a speech in Kobe, Abe said he expects the proposals to be submitted to the related commissions in both chambers of the Diet before the extra session ends.

Abe, who is on a lifelong quest to amend the U.S.-drafted supreme code for the first time ever, has set a year-end deadline for his party to revamp its previous proposals.

His party had been widely expected to present the new drafts to the Diet commissions early next year.

The LDP, which drafted a new constitution five years ago as part of its election campaign strategy, reopened discussions on how to amend war-renouncing Article 9 after Abe boldly said in May that he wanted to insert a passage about the Self-Defense Forces to give the military organization a legitimate position in the charter. Article 9 bans Japan from maintaining air, land and sea forces and “war potential.”

In his speech, Abe said, “Our party is resolved to take a historic step ahead of other parties within this year that marks the 70th year of the enforcement of the Japanese Constitution.”

The LDP also sees the expansion of educational opportunities through cost-free education as another area of consideration.

Abe said in the speech that discussing the future of education is “an extremely important topic” that should be addressed through constitutional amendments.

Abe has a golden opportunity to push for his long-held goal of amending the Constitution, drafted under the strong influence of the United States after World War II, as the LDP and other pro-amendment forces command the required two-thirds majority needed in both chambers of the Diet.

A simple majority of the public must also approve any amendment proposed in a referendum.

The Constitution took effect in 1947. To date, there have been no bids to initiate a formal amendment process, partly due to the difficulty of getting to the referendum stage. Abe has said he hopes to have a revised supreme law put into force in 2020, when Japan is to host the Olympics and Paralympics.

Achieving the politically sensitive goal will require careful planning, with two major national elections coming up — the House of Representatives election, which must be held by December 2018, and the Upper House election in summer 2019.

He seems to be considering the possibility of holding a national referendum on constitutional amendments on the same date as a snap general election that would be triggered by dissolving the House of Representatives, which is his prerogative, informed sources said.

By speeding up the LDP’s constitutional brainstorming, Abe is thought to be angling for better timing options for dissolving the Lower House, the sources said.

In the meantime, Abe is apparently preparing to reshuffle his Cabinet and the LDP’s executive team in early August.

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