The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) made a formal decision on Nov. 7 to appoint former General Council Chairman Hiroyuki Hosoda as chair of its Headquarters for the Promotion of Revision to the Constitution. Hosoda will retain all the executive members of the headquarters and resume deliberations as soon as next week in order to accomplish the goal of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (LDP president) to promulgate an amended constitution in 2020.
Hosoda told his aides on Nov. 7: “I will serve as the gyoji [sumo wrestling umpire]. Everything should be decided by the public. I would like to consult with both ruling and opposition parties to look for meeting points.”
Hosoda chairs the faction Abe belongs to and is close to the Prime Minister. Although Abe has stressed repeatedly that he does not have a “predetermined schedule” to promulgate a new constitution in 2020 and that he leaves the matter to discussions within the LDP, the appointment of Hosoda is seen by certain party members as “aimed at accelerating the debate under Abe’s leadership.”
Executive Acting Secretary General Koichi Hagiuda, a close confidant of Abe, stated at a news conference on Nov. 7: “We will do an in-depth study of four issues within this year and make preparations for the regular Diet session next year.” He stressed that the LDP’s campaign pledge in the recent House of Representatives election to submit revision proposals to the Diet next year on four issues, including an explicit provision on the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) and the elimination of House of Councillors constituencies straddling two prefectures, remains unchanged.
The LDP envisions engaging the ruling and opposition parties in discussions on its proposals to open the way to submitting revision motions to the Diet and holding a referendum in 2018. However, this may be delayed to 2019 depending on intraparty discussions and the position of Komeito and others.
Former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba and other LDP members disagree with the proposal on the SDF, while Komeito included a negative view on this in its Lower House election pledges, distancing itself from the LDP’s position. Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi stated at a news conference on Nov. 7: “We would like to closely watch the developments without interfering with the debate in the LDP. There are no plans for the two ruling parties to do something together.”
If the referendum is delayed to 2019, certain LDP members favor holding this simultaneously with the Upper House election in summer 2019. Abe did not also rule out this possibility in his news conference held after launching his fourth cabinet. He merely said: “I have no plans to discuss whether to hold the referendum simultaneously with the Upper House election.”
The LDP constitutional revision headquarters will first resume discussions on the issues of eliminating the joint Upper House constituencies and free education, which had started before the Lower House election.
As for personnel, Takumi Nemoto will continue to serve as the headquarters’ secretary general and Naoki Okada as its chief secretary. The previous chairman Okiharu Yasuoka and Vice President Masahiko Komura, who have retired as Diet members, will continue to be involved with the deliberations as special advisers.