National / Politics

With election in the bag, LDP resumes talks on amending pacifist constitution

Kyodo

The Liberal Democratic Party has resumed discussions on revising the Constitution after its big win in last month’s election, when it pledged to pursue the first-ever amendment.

With Prime Minister Shinzo Abe eager to revise the Constitution, particularly the war-renouncing Article 9, the LDP is expected to craft its amendment proposals and present them during the ordinary Diet session that starts in January.

Hiroyuki Hosoda, a veteran LDP lawmaker who recently became head of the LDP panel promoting constitutional reform, called on party members at the outset of the panel’s gathering Thursday to continue to cooperate in the discussions.

Hosoda has taken up the panel’s chief post that was vacated by Okiharu Yasuoka, who chose not to run in the Oct. 22 Lower House election for health reasons.

The LDP’s discussions on constitutional revision have so far centered on four areas, including Article 9.

The main topic for Thursday’s meeting was changing Article 47 to ensure each prefecture is represented by at least one member of the Upper House.

The change is aimed at ending a controversial measure under which two prefectures are treated as a single electoral district, which was introduced to address vote weight disparities created by Japan’s rural-urban population imbalance.

Talks on changing Article 9 have gathered steam within the LDP since Abe raised in May the idea of “adding” to the article an explicit reference to the Self-Defense Forces, in a bid to end arguments by constitutional scholars that an organization even for self-defense contravenes the war-renouncing charter.

But whether the proposal will make it through the amendment process remains uncertain. The LDP’s junior coalition ally, Komeito, is increasingly reluctant to support Abe’s idea after facing criticism that its vague stance on the issue contributed to its poor showing in the election.

Komeito describes itself as a champion of peace and has been less aggressive about revising Article 9 than its larger partner. The Constitution is viewed by some LDP conservatives as a humiliating “imposition” by the U.S.-led Occupation following Japan’s defeat in World War II.

The general public is also divided over changing Article 9, as many believe it has brought peace to Japan and enabled the country to avoid involvement in conflicts over the past seven decades.

The LDP, Komeito and other pro-constitutional reform forces have two-thirds majorities in both Diet chambers, satisfying a prerequisite for initiating an amendment. Any proposal would need to be approved by a majority of voters in a national referendum.

For the time being there is no concern for Abe or the LDP over the process being disrupted by major national elections. The next is expected in summer 2019, when half of the Upper House seats will be contested.

Senior members of the LDP constitutional reform panel agreed Wednesday to hold two more plenary meetings to discuss constitutional revisions by the end of the year.