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LDP struggles to reach consensus on Article 9 revision ahead of snap election

by

Staff Writer

Senior lawmakers of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party agreed on Wednesday that while the party may include constitutional revision as an official campaign pledge in the upcoming Lower House election, it will not specify details on how it plans to revise the war-renouncing Article 9, three party executives said.

Instead, the LDP is likely to mention four subjects that have been under discussion since June: Amending Article 9 in general terms, creating three new separate articles to change electoral systems, providing free higher education and setting contingency legal power for the prime minister.

“Some media reported we’ve already agreed on how the Constitution should be revised, but that’s not the case at all,” said Okiharu Yasuoka, who heads an LDP panel tasked with promoting constitutional revision, during a general meeting at the party headquarters in Tokyo.

Yasuoka was apparently referring to a front-page story carried by the Asahi Shimbun earlier in the day. The newspaper reported that LDP executives have already decided to include in its campaign pledges amendments to Article 9 as proposed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in May, which would formalize the existence of the Self-Defense Forces but would not change the substance of Japan’s exclusively defense-oriented posture.

Some LDP members, however, have called for a more drastic change to Article 9, which would allow Japan to exercise the full right of collective self-defense as defined under the United Nations charter. Such a change would allow Tokyo significantly to boost its joint operations with the United States military as a contingency.

The panel, however, apparently gave up its attempt at party consensus, postponing a decision on the two proposals until after the Lower House election likely set for Oct. 22.

The party’s constitutional panel will not meet until after the upcoming election, so the party will not make an official decision during that period, Yasuoka said.

Abe is expected to deliver a speech before the media on Monday to announce his decision to dissolve the Lower House and call a snap election.

Abe’s intention was first reported by major news outlets on Sunday, leaving little time for party members to discuss policy affairs and hammer out details of election pledges.

Discussions over possible amendments to Article 9 have been contentious throughout the postwar decades. Komeito, a junior coalition partner of the LDP, has been reluctant to promote any revision of the war-renouncing article, which is believed to be one of the key reasons Abe proposed a modest revision in May.

Meanwhile, former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba, one of Abe’s political rivals, is a key senior member of the panel who has advocated a more drastic change to Article 9.

On Wednesday, Ishiba told reporters he believes the party will only pledge in its campaign platform “to quickly draw a conclusion” on constitutional issues while avoiding going into details about how the article should be revised.

“I think it’s difficult to form consensus among party members” just before the election, Ishiba said.