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The pandemic seems to have accelerated a decadeslong effort to decentralize Japan’s political apparatus — or, at least, demonstrated the pitfalls and shortcomings of that process, writes Ryusei Takahashi.

Since the onset of the crisis, the balance of power has oscillated between the central and prefectural governments, with the former taking the lion’s share of of flak for any missteps. Support for Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is at a record low, a new poll shows.

Some ruling party members are seizing this moment to push constitutional change as a panacea for what has been seen as a weak response, though opposition parties fear that setting out emergency powers in the charter would threaten individual rights.

ROGER DAHL
ROGER DAHL

The debate comes as a bill to amend the law to clarify how any referendum on constitutional change would work is expected to clear the Lower House on Tuesday.

Amending the postwar Constitution, particularly war-renouncing Article 9, has long been a dream of Japan’s conservatives, including former PM Shinzo Abe, but the issue has taken a back seat under Suga.

But over the past few weeks, Abe has reemerged on the political scene, including with a statement of support for his successor, fueling speculation about his motives, writes Eric Johnston. Could Abe be angling to take back his old job later this year?

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