Executives of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party on Tuesday expressed support for the prospect of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe staying on for another term after 2021 in order to pursue his controversial goal of amending the Constitution.
Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso told a news conference that Abe should not leave to his successor the task of revising the supreme law, which proponents of revision say will clarify the legal status of the Self-Defense Forces, as none of the postwar LDP leaders have managed to stay in the job for long enough to achieve an amendment.
“Amending the Constitution is a founding principle of the Liberal Democratic Party. (Abe) has to prepare himself to do so on his own,” said Aso, who doubles as finance minister.
Abe told a news conference on Monday that he would seek to continue parliamentary debates “step by step” in the upcoming regular session, set to begin in January, to lay the groundwork for the first-ever revision to the Constitution.
Amending the pacifist top law remains a divisive issue in the country, and Diet debate on the issue has been derailed by a series of scandals linked to Abe and his Cabinet members.
“If he has no other way, it is natural (for Abe) to come up with a way to deal with the matter,” Aso added.
LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai told a separate news conference that Abe remaining in his post for another term could be justified if he does not make sufficient progress before September 2021.
In 2017, the LDP changed its term limit on party leaders at the initiative of Nikai, extending the cap to three consecutive three-year terms from the previous two consecutive three-year terms. For Abe to extend his term, which expires in September 2021, the LDP would need to change its rules again.
Abe has said he wants the Self-Defense Forces mentioned in the war-renouncing Article 9 of the law to end years of debate over their legality.
However, amending the Constitution requires approval by two-thirds majorities in both houses, followed by what would likely be the difficult task of winning majority support in a national referendum.
The coalition would need the support of some pro-amendment opposition parties to secure two-thirds approval in the Diet.