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Members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party are becoming less eager to amend the country’s Constitution as Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga appears to be less serious about the goal than his predecessor.

While in office, Suga’s predecessor, Shinzo Abe, repeatedly pressed both ruling and opposition lawmakers to promote discussions on constitutional amendments.

But Suga has mentioned the issue less frequently. At an annual LDP convention in March, he did not discuss the matter in detail and only said the party would first focus on revising the national referendum law to open the way for constitutional amendments.

Suga’s cautious approach has been met with frustration from some LDP members. “The prime minister should declare that he will promote discussions on constitutional amendments,” said a senior member of the party’s Headquarters for the Promotion of Revision of the Constitution.

“Voters want this. If he remains ambiguous, the next House of Representatives election will be at risk,” the member said, referring to the general election to be held by the autumn.

“The prime minister doesn’t have the kind of enthusiasm that Abe had,” another senior member of the panel said.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has mentioned the issue of amending the country's Constitution less frequently than his predecessor, Shinzo Abe. | KYODO
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has mentioned the issue of amending the country’s Constitution less frequently than his predecessor, Shinzo Abe. | KYODO

But even proponents of constitutional amendments are starting to signal a change in stance. “We need to focus on the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic over the next half year,” a former cabinet minister said, adding that a push for constitutional amendments would trigger a massive backlash.

On the proposal to revise the national referendum law, however, talks between ruling and opposition lawmakers have been progressing.

Late last month the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan said it would allow a bill to revise the law to be put to a vote at a Lower House panel if the LDP accepted its proposed modifications.

The CDP had opposed taking a vote on the bill, but now apparently thinks that a flexible approach will help the party appeal to conservative voters in the general election, sources familiar with the situation said.

In addition, the CDP believes that such a concession could block efforts to promote discussions on constitutional amendments themselves, the sources said.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga holds a news conference in Tokyo on Jan. 7. | POOL / VIA REUTERS
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga holds a news conference in Tokyo on Jan. 7. | POOL / VIA REUTERS

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