A proposed amendment to the national referendum law, which regulates how the public votes on proposed amendments to the Constitution, has raised questions about whether tighter regulations are needed on political advertisements in the lead-up to referendums. Those calling for more control over such ads say that as the law currently stands, massive ad campaigns by well-funded groups might sway the outcomes. Meanwhile, commercial broadcasters have said they cannot voluntarily curb the volume of advertisements they air and expressed their opposition to tightening legal regulations, citing freedom of expression. These questions need to be resolved before the prospect of holding such a referendum becomes real.

The amendment now before the Lower House panel on the Constitution is not controversial. It seeks to make provisions designed to enhance voter convenience in referendums on par with those under the Public Offices Election Law, such as creating common polling stations in train stations and commercial establishments, and opposition parties reportedly have no objections to the revision itself. But while the ruling coalition seeks to quickly pass the amendment through the Diet, key opposition forces, including the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, are calling for discussions on tightening regulations on broadcast ads regarding constitutional amendments in the lead-up to referendums, leaving the fate of the amendment up in the air.

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