• Kyodo

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Komeito, the junior coalition partner of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, has taken a cautious stance over the LDP’s proposal to revise the war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution, according to its election platform released Thursday.

The LDP will push for the first-ever amendment to the pacifist Constitution, with revisions to be made based on sufficient debate. The party has also said that it will touch on the issue of adding wording specifying the status of the Self-Defense Forces.

But Komeito, backed by major lay-Buddhist organization Soka Gakkai, has stated in its campaign platform for the Oct. 22 Lower House election that “many Japanese people do not regard the SDF as unconstitutional.”

The party’s latest stance signals a retreat from its pledge in the previous House of Representatives election, in 2014. Komeito then said it would “carefully consider” explicitly mentioning the SDF’s existence in the Article 9, as part of a broad discussion to add clauses reflecting new, necessary ideas to the supreme law.

Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi said, “The LDP hasn’t reached a consensus” on the issue of constitutional revision. “We will stick to our basic policy of observing (the LDP’s discussion) and not intervening.”

In May, Abe argued that the status of the SDF should be added to Article 9 to leave no room for scholars to call the organization “unconstitutional” based on the lack of an explicit reference to it in the supreme law.

Aside from constitutional amendment, Komeito has given top priority to “alleviating the burden of education (costs).” The party vowed to use a larger proportion of the extra revenue expected from a consumption tax hike, scheduled for October 2019, on education.

Specifically, Komeito pledged to make private high school effectively free by 2019 for households with annual incomes lower than ¥5.9 million ($52,000). It also promised to reduce university education costs, and make preschool education free for children ages 5 or younger.

As part of its efforts to support low-income elderly people, Komeito vowed to further reduce the burden of nursing-care insurance premium payments and introduce earlier-than-scheduled special benefits to those with smaller pensions.

Komeito also pledged to introduce a reduced tax rate on food and other daily necessities when the consumption tax is raised.

In the field of energy, Komeito said it intends to phase out nuclear power generation by promoting renewables and efficiency in thermal power generation.

The party also called for the introduction of a “Shining Monday” initiative to make Monday mornings an extension of the weekend and combat the traditional Japanese practice of long working hours.

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