The Liberal Democratic Party has begun formal discussions on changing the rules that prohibit its president from serving more than two consecutive three-year terms, with proponents apparently seeking to enable Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to stay in office beyond the September 2018 end of his second term. Since this is essentially an internal matter for a political party, the decision is up to its members. However, given the LDP's long hold on power, its rules on presidential terms effectively determine the tenure of the prime minister.

The LDP's rules in this matter have in fact been amended a number of times since the party's founding in 1955. But unlike past changes, these discussions could pave the way for extending the tenure of an incumbent party chief already in his last term. The party should make clear whether the possible change in rules is being mulled for its own merits and demerits, or whether its members simply want Abe to remain in power longer.

The party's political system reform headquarters, whose executive members, led by deputy chief Masahiko Komura, kicked off the talks on Tuesday, reportedly plans to wrap up the discussions by the end of the year and propose possible changes at the party's convention next year. The discussions are expected to revolve around two proposals — one to allow the party chief to run for up to three consecutive three-year terms, and the other to eliminate the restrictions on the number of terms that the president can serve in a row.