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Talk of amending the nation’s Constitution has been scarce in campaigns ahead of Sunday’s election for the House of Representatives.

After the changes of leadership since former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was eager to amend the top law, the ship for constitutional amendment in Japan may have already sailed.

While ruling and opposition parties are engaged in a war of words on COVID-19 responses and economic policy measures, party leaders — including Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, also president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party — have barely touched on constitutional revision.

“We will carve out a path to a new era through the fight against the coronavirus, economic measures and foreign and security policies,” Kishida said in a speech Wednesday on the streets of Tokyo’s Kita Ward.

He talked for around 15 minutes on the three sets of measures, but did not say a word on constitutional reform.

Kishida’s speech was a stark contrast to those delivered by Abe during the 2019 election for the House of Councilors, the Diet’s upper chamber, when he was prime minister.

Abe had been criticized for not actively discussing constitutional revisions in previous election campaigns. For the 2019 election, he urged voters across Japan to choose between parties that hold discussions on rewriting the Constitution and parties that fail to even discuss such matters.

Following the example of the Abe administration, the LDP included early constitutional amendments in its campaign promises for the upcoming general election.

And at a news conference during the LDP presidential election in September, Kishida said he would aim to amend the Constitution if he became party president.

While noting that the LDP’s goal for the Lower House election will not be to secure the two-thirds of Lower House seats needed for the chamber to propose revising the Constitution, Kishida said at a news conference on Oct. 14 that he would discuss the issue during general election campaigns.

However, he only briefly referred to constitutional reform at a debate ahead of the upcoming vote hosted by the Japan National Press Club on Oct. 18, saying that he would push hard to achieve constitutional amendments requested by the people.

Those close to Kishida say he has been avoiding discussions on constitutional reform on the campaign trail as talk of amendments doesn’t resonate with voters.

But some conservative lawmakers in the LDP have complained that they feel no enthusiasm from Kishida on the issue.

Yukio Edano, head of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, speaks to the crowd during a campaign event in Tokyo on Oct. 19. | BLOOMBERG
Yukio Edano, head of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, speaks to the crowd during a campaign event in Tokyo on Oct. 19. | BLOOMBERG

With the leader of the biggest political party not serving as a proponent of constitutional reform, other parties have not prioritized the issue in their campaign promises, regardless of their positions on amendments.

The main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan did not mention the Constitution in its campaign platform.

“We can’t afford to use a vast amount of political energy on the Constitution amid the coronavirus crisis,” said CDP leader Yukio Edano. He did not take up constitutional reform in a speech delivered Wednesday in Utsunomiya, Tochigi Prefecture.

Komeito, the junior coalition partner of the LDP, did not include the Constitution in its list of priority policies for the Lower House election.

Most speeches by Kazuo Shii, leader of the Japanese Communist Party, Ichiro Matsui, head of Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party), and Yuichiro Tamaki, head of the Democratic Party for the People, have not included a word on the matter.

Only Mizuho Fukushima, leader of the Social Democratic Party and a staunch supporter of the current Constitution, has touched on the issue, repeatedly stressing the need to preserve the charter in its current form.

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