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LDP members aiming for constitutional revision torn between PM Abe, opposition

The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) members who have been working to achieve constitutional revision through cooperation between the ruling and opposition parties are now in a fix. They are torn between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is pressing them to swiftly come up with constitutional revision proposals with the aim of implementing the amended constitution in 2020, and the opposition parties, which are critical of this plan and assert that “no deadline should be set.” A lawmaker close to Abe even stated blatantly at an executive meeting of the party’s Headquarters for the Promotion of Revision to the Constitution (chaired by Okiharu Yasuoka) on May 12: “Why don’t we let Deputy President Masahiko Komura take the lead in this process?”


While Yasuoka indicated at the meeting his intent to reach a consensus in the intraparty debate at an early date, Gen Nakatani, the ruling parties’ principal director in the House of Representatives Commission on the Constitution who is also a member of the headquarters, told an informal meeting of the constitutional commission’s directors on May 11 that Abe’s constitutional revision proposal was “meant for the LDP, so we are not bound by (the plan to promulgate the amended constitution by 2020),” thus showing consideration for the opposition.


LDP members working on constitutional revision prioritize cooperation between the ruling and opposition parties. Their position on the revision of Article 9, which may sharply divide the nation, is that “it should come after two referendums are held.” They are poised to maintain this position, but the party leadership has been complaining that “debate at the headquarters is taking too much time.” Party leaders have been talking about creating a “new body” under the secretary general’s office, so the pressure is growing for the constitution to be revised under the LDP’s auspices. LDP lawmakers involved in constitutional revision are now forced to say different things inside and outside the party.


Special Advisor to the Prime Minister Masahiko Shibayama was the one who suggested giving Komura the leading role. He proposed to Yasuoka bluntly that “it would be better for Mr. Komura to engage in coordination between the ruling parties with Komeito Deputy Leader Kazuo Kitagawa.”


Yasuoka was irked by such a blatant suggestion, which amounted to moving forward over the head of the headquarters’ chair. Another LDP Diet member involved in the constitutional amendment issue was also furious about this failure to understand that cooperation between the ruling and opposition parties will actually speed up constitutional revision.


However, if Abe decides to abandon ruling party-opposition cooperation, LDP members who think otherwise may be left out in the reshuffle of party executives, which is expected to take place this fall. Certain lawmakers working on constitutional revision have come up with a “compromise,” which is to set up subcommittees under the headquarters devoted to specific issues, such as Article 9 or free higher education. (Slightly abridged)

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