National / Politics

LDP OKs terse plan to revise Constitution as it seeks to avoid divisive issue ahead of coming elections

Kyodo, JIJI

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party on Sunday adopted a concise plan for its long-cherished goal of revising the nation’s pacifist Constitution at its annual convention, apparently in consideration of local and national elections later this year.

In his address to the gathering, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who also serves as LDP president, reiterated his desire to amend the supreme law by clarifying the status of the Self-Defense Forces in the war-renouncing Article 9 so as to end academic debate over its constitutionality.

“Finally, it is time to work toward constitutional revision, which has been our dearest wish since the establishment of the party,” Abe told the LDP’s convention in Tokyo.

However, he stopped short of mentioning detailed steps or a time frame.

The party’s action plan endorsed at the convention, for the most part, though, backpedaled on the push to realize the first-ever amendment to the 1947 Constitution, merely touching on the issue in just one paragraph in its preamble. Last year, an entire chapter was dedicated to the subject.

“We are committed to igniting public interest and paving the way toward amending the Constitution so that it conforms to the current time,” the plan said.

The curt statement apparently reflects the reluctance of party members — particularly in regional chapters — to highlight the divisive topic in the upcoming elections.

The party did not present its own proposal to the commissions on the Constitution in the two houses of the Diet during an extra parliamentary session last year.

Abe, who was elected for his third and a final three-year term as LDP president by the party last September, for his part, still maintains he wants to amend the supreme law by 2020.

Currently, pro-constitutional reform forces have a two-thirds majorities in both Diet chambers, meeting the requirement to initiate the amendment process. Any proposals must eventually be approved by a majority in a national referendum.

Abe had hoped that the LDP’s proposals put together in March last year would be submitted during the extraordinary Diet session that started in late October.

But an intensifying confrontation between the ruling and opposition parties over a bill that was aimed at allowing more foreign workers into Japan made it difficult for lawmakers to engage in full-fledged and highly-sensitive constitutional discussions.

As for a series of local government elections in April and the House of Councilors election in the summer, the annual strategy for 2019 urged candidates to strengthen their support bases to clinch victories even if they face unexpected circumstances.

“Although the elections are bound to be tough, I’m resolved to stand at the forefront of the battle until the last minute,” Abe said.

“Local assemblies are the foundation of the LDP,” Abe said in his speech at the convention.

On foreign policy, Abe reaffirmed his resolve to advance negotiations with Russia toward concluding a postwar peace treaty, which has not been signed due to a territorial dispute over a group of islets off of Hokkaido.

Among domestic issues, the prime minister apologized for the labor ministry’s release for years of faulty jobs statistics that resulted in the underpayment of work-related benefits to tens of millions of people and the undermining of trust in the accuracy of government statistics.

Natsuo Yamaguchi, head of Komeito, the coalition partner of the LDP, who was invited to the convention, also underscored the importance of seriously addressing the issue of survey irregularities to make the public feel secure.