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Options limited for scheduling Diet’s initiation of constitutional reform, national referendum

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is aiming to have the Diet initiate amendments to the Constitution within the year because the political calendar for 2019 is studded with big events, including Emperor Akihito’s abdication, limiting options for scheduling the Diet’s initiation and a national referendum.


Initially, coupling the referendum with an upper house election in the summer of 2019 was a strong possibility within the LDP. That is because if a constitutional amendment plan is voted down in a national referendum, the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe could come under stronger pressure to resign and, as a person close to Abe puts it, “It’s better to aim for the synergy between the upper house election [and the referendum] by operating the organization at full capacity.”


But there are concerns that “the simultaneous implementation of the upper house election and the referendum is difficult” following the government’s decision to officially set the date for the Emperor’s abdication as April 30, 2019, and the date for the crown prince’s accession to the throne as May 1, 2019. The government and the LDP are aware that the Diet should avoid initiating constitutional amendments around Emperor’s abdication in order to implement the abdication and the accession in a “quiet environment.”


There has now emerged a plan to have the Diet initiate constitutional change within the year and implement the national referendum before or after a regular Diet session is convened in January 2019. The LDP aims to have the Diet initiate constitutional change at an extraordinary Diet session after the prime minister gets is elected LDP leader for a third time. (Abridged)





Schedule for constitutional revision envisaged by LDP


End of January

Resumption of the party’s headquarters for the Promotion of Revision to the Constitution.

March 25

Party convention. Announcement of the party’s constitutional revision plan.

Late March


The party’s constitutional revision plan is proposed to other parties at the Upper and Lower Houses’ Commission on the Constitution for discussions.         


LDP presidential election

                                                                              [Plan 1] Diet’s initiation of constitutional reform

                                                                                              ↓  60-180 days later  



Regular Diet session convenes.                          Referendum on constitutional reform


Unified local elections

April 30

Emperor’s abdication

May 1

Crown Prince’s accession to the throne

                                                                              [Plan 2] Diet’s initiation of constitutional reform

                                                                                           ↓  60-180 days later  


Upper House election                                              Referendum on constitutional reform

                                                                                 (Could be after the Upper House election)


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