National / Politics

LDP to present draft for revising Japan's pacifist Constitution to Diet without consulting Komeito

Kyodo, Staff Report

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party has decided to present its draft proposals for revising Japan’s pacifist Constitution to the upcoming extraordinary Diet session without prior consultations with its junior coalition partner Komeito, LDP executives said Friday.

In a bid to pursue Abe’s long-cherished goal, the LDP plans to offer its proposals to the commissions on the Constitution to both Diet chambers during the session expected to be convened later this month, because Komeito has remained cautious about changing war-renouncing Article 9, the senior officials said.

Abe, who was re-elected to the post of LDP president last month, has urged his party to submit its constitutional amendment proposals to the upcoming Diet session, and had expressed his readiness to hold prior consultations with Komeito.

But Komeito chief Natsuo Yamaguchi repeatedly indicated the party’s reluctance to enter the prior negotiations, telling reporters Tuesday that the issue should be debated at the House of Representatives’ Commission on the Constitution.

Hakubun Shimomura, who has been appointed the new head of an LDP panel promoting constitutional revision, and former LDP Vice President Masahiko Komura, who is set to become the party panel’s supreme adviser, confirmed the policy during their meeting on Thursday, according to party executives.

Abe also met Komura on Thursday, where they agreed that the LDP will go ahead with its own plans, separate party sources said.

The ruling party aims to spur wider debate among the ruling and opposition parties over the issue, but it is unclear whether its attempt will succeed as many opposition forces, including the leading Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, are opposed to Abe’s ambition.

Abe has sought to clarify the legally ambiguous status of the Self-Defense Forces under the war-renouncing Article 9, which bans maintenance of war potential, to put an end to debate over the constitutionality of the Japanese troops.

But the process is not easy, as constitutional amendments require approval by two-thirds of both houses of the Diet and a majority in a national referendum.

The supreme law took effect in 1947 during the U.S.-led postwar Occupation and has never been revised.

In March, the LDP compiled its draft clauses for revising the Constitution in four potential areas including Article 9, a sensitive issue in the nation, after Abe made public his proposals to change the supreme law in May last year.

The ruling party now seeks to upgrade its proposals to amend the Constitution through talks involving both ruling and opposition forces at Diet panels.

A Kyodo News public opinion poll conducted this week, after the Cabinet reshuffle, found that 48.7 percent of respondents are opposed to Abe’s attempts to allow the LDP to move forward and amend the Constitution, while 36.4 percent supported such moves.

The telephone poll gathered valid responses from 504 people via fixed telephones and 511 from people with mobile phones.

Abe’s push to drive his proposal forward could worsen his public support rate. The same poll showed that the Cabinet reshuffle has failed to gain the support of many voters.

It found 45.2 percent of respondents did not view the reshuffle positively, while only 31.0 percent said they did.

The debate on the Constitution illustrates the divide over the pacifist charter, drafted by U.S. Occupation officials after Japan surrendered at the end of World War II.

Advocates of the Constitution see it as the source of Japan’s peace, prosperity and democracy in the postwar era. But many conservatives view it as a document that was drafted by a wartime victor and forced upon the nation at its moment of defeat.