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Abe aims to submit constitutional revision proposal to extraordinary Diet session

On Sept. 20, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe won the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) presidential election, and he spelled out a plan to quickly coordinate views on constitutional amendment within the ruling parties with an eye to achieving the revision of the Supreme Law. He aims to present to the extraordinary Diet session scheduled for this autumn a draft text featuring provisions explicitly stating the grounds for the existence of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF).


At a press conference on Sept. 20, the prime minister stated: “With a view to submitting a constitutional revision proposal to the Diet, the LDP will accelerate its work on this matter so that the proposal gains broad consensus. We will coordinate with Komeito, our coalition partner.”


The prime minister aimed to heighten the momentum toward amending the Constitution by bringing the debate within the party to a close through a victory over former LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba in the party presidential race. Ishiba had put forward a different proposal regarding the SDF. Abe spoke confidently when he announced the victory to his camp: “We have had various debates on the Constitution within the party, and I think a single direction has in effect emerged.”


The issue Abe faces for the immediate future will be to gain the understanding of Komeito regarding the LDP’s draft text. At a press conference on Sept. 19, Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi said, “It cannot be said that constitutional amendment is necessarily a high priority policy issue.” At a press conference on Sept. 20 as well, he again expressed caution, saying, “We will handle [the matter] by closely monitoring how the LDP is assessing the matter.” A past cabinet member and others close to the prime minister say, “To win over Komeito, the prime minister will need to persuade Yamaguchi directly.”


After coordinating views within the ruling parties, the prime minister is hoping for the following “best case scenario”: (1) to present the draft text to the Research Commission on the Constitution in each House at the extraordinary Diet session this autumn; (2) to deepen debate based on the draft and create a constitutional revision draft bill; and (3) to finalize the proposed amendments after winning a concurring vote of two-thirds or more of all the members of each House prior to next summer’s Upper House election.


Many of the opposition parties, including the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, however, are protesting the LDP-led revisions. They are prepared to demand thorough debate on the draft amendment of the Constitutional Amendment Procedure Law at the extraordinary Diet session. It is unclear whether things will proceed as the prime minister hopes.


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