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A commission under the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of the Diet, began substantive deliberations Thursday on a bill to amend the law governing national referendums on revising the Constitution.

A question-and-answer session at the Lower House’s Commission on the Constitution was held on the bill for the first time since it was submitted to the Diet over two years ago. The bill includes measures to make it easier for voters to cast ballots in referendums on constitutional amendments.

During the session, Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party) submitted a motion to take a vote on the bill. But Hiroyuki Hosoda, a member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, who chairs the commission, did not accept it, because the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP) and other opposition forces are against putting the bill to vote.

The same day, the ruling bloc called for a vote to be taken early on the bill. But Soichiro Okuno of the CDP expressed the party’s caution over such a move, seeking debate over restrictions on television commercials in relation to referendums on constitutional revision. Seiken Akamine of the Japanese Communist Party also opposed the ruling bloc’s proposal.

The referendum law amendment calls for, among other things, setting up polling stations at train stations and commercial facilities, making voting hours flexible and allowing voters to bring children aged under 18 to polling places with them.

The ongoing extraordinary Diet session is scheduled to end on Dec. 5. The bill’s possible enactment is expected to be carried over to next year’s regular Diet session, to be convened in January, at the earliest.

The bill was submitted mainly by the ruling bloc and Nippon Ishin in June 2018, and an explanation on the legislation was made at the Diet in the following month. But the bill has since been continuously carried over due to the opposition bloc’s caution over the legislation.

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