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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is increasingly candid about his bid to amend the Constitution, including its war-renouncing Article 9. He has openly said he hopes to achieve a constitutional amendment while he’s in office — meaning before his current, and supposedly last, term as Liberal Democratic Party president ends in September 2018. Abe’s frank remarks about the sensitive topic have even raised some eyebrows among members of the LDP as well as its ruling coalition ally Komeito, who worry that the prime minister’s emphasis on the issue could alienate voters and unite the opposition parties ahead of the Upper House election this summer. To initiate an amendment for public referendum while Abe is in office, the LDP and like-minded forces need to forge a two-thirds majority in the Upper House in the upcoming triennial race — or find other partners within the opposition camp.

Abe may be seeking to build up public acceptance for a constitutional amendment with his repeated statements on the issue. Voters should be aware that he might get a window of opportunity to propose an amendment depending on the outcome of the Upper House race —as a consequence of their votes — and keep close tabs on what positions lawmakers and their parties take on the issue. As Abe himself reiterates, it is the voters who would make the final call in a referendum on whether to amend the Constitution.

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