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POLITICS

Abe’s resolve to amend Constitution while in office to be key issue in Upper House election

  • 2016-03-03 15:00:00
  • , Mainichi
  • Translation

(Mainichi: March 3, 2016 – p. 5)

 

 On March 2, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed his intention to aim at amending the Constitution “while in office.” His announcement is certain to become a key issue in the House of Councillors. With an eye on concurrent elections for the two Diet houses, Abe intends to win a two-thirds majority in the Upper House, which is required for the Diet to propose constitutional reform. Depending on the outcome of the Upper House election, constitutional amendment will become a realistic policy challenge.

 

 Questioned about the “national defense army” mentioned in the Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) draft revision to the Constitution, at an Upper House Budget Committee session on March 2, Abe gave the following response: “I’m here in my position as prime minister. I would like to refrain from discussing this.” Although Abe emphasized his willingness to revise the Constitution, he refrained from commenting on specific revisions. Also at a Lower House Budget Committee meeting on March 1, he said: “I hope the Lower House Commission on the Constitution will narrow down the discussions on which article should be revised first.”

 

 The Upper House election this summer will be the last election for the upper chamber to be held during Abe’s tenure as prime minister until September 2018. Holding simultaneous elections for the Upper and Lower Houses is a way for Abe to ensure that constitutional amendment will be possible. If concurrent elections are held while favorable winds are blowing for the ruling parties, there will be hope for them to gain seats in the two Diet houses. A senior LDP member feels that “if the ruling parties can increase their Diet seats in simultaneous elections, the Prime Minister will probably dissolve the Lower House.”

 

 At the commissions on the Constitution of the two Diet houses, political parties already expressed their views on amendment items. In addition to the commissions, the LDP is looking into setting up a council of the parties that take a positive stance on constitutional revision after the Upper House election.

 

 Meanwhile, members of the Komeito party, which is cautious about constitutional reform, are feeling perplexed. The party’s policy chief, Noritoshi Ishida said at a press conference on March 2: “I think it was rather sudden for him to use the phrase ‘while in office.'” He kept Abe in check by saying, “He has two and a half years left in his term. I wonder if what he said is realistic.” (Abridged)

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