Japan's Constitution, which took effect 70 years ago, may be facing the most intense pressures ever for amendment as proponents of revising the supreme law, led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling coalition, now have the two-thirds majority in both chambers of the Diet required to initiate an amendment for approval in a national referendum. However, there does not appear to be any broad public consensus yet on what part of the Constitution should be changed, how and why — which seems to reflect a lack of pressing practical needs for an amendment.
The prime minister does not hide his own ambitions to get the Constitution amended while he is in office — where he can potentially stay until 2021. During a ceremony late last month to commemorate the Constitution's 70th anniversary, Abe said a constitution "should speak of the nation's future and its ideal state" and advocated the need to "paint an ideal picture of the nation for the new times." The Constitution should not be amended just to fulfill the agendas of politicians or political parties, nor merely because there is the political window of opportunity in the form of the proponents' grip on a Diet majority. Voters — who hold the ultimate say on a constitutional amendment — should see through the political arguments and decide for themselves what they want the Constitution to be.
In fact, parties that trumpet the need for a constitutional amendment do not have a consensus on the specifics of how the Constitution should be revised. Even Abe's Liberal Democratic Party, whose draft amendment in 2012 called for sweeping changes including revising the war-renouncing Article 9, is seeking to start the amendment on issues over which it hopes a broad political and public endorsement can be expected — such as giving the government emergency powers in a national crisis and extending the tenures of Lower House members if they expire just as the nation is hit by a major disaster — before working on more divisive matters such as Article 9.