Many close allies of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have been appointed to executive positions in the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), reflecting his strong intent to revise the Constitution.
Abe chose former Minister of Health, Labor, and Welfare Katsunobu Kato to chair the party’s highest decisionmaking body, the General Council, which will have to approve the constitutional revision proposals.
Hakubun Shimomura, a close confidant of Abe who has been keen on submitting constitutional amendment proposals to the Diet, was named to head the Headquarters for the Promotion of Revision to the Constitution. Abe’s appointment of his close ally Akira Amari to chair the Election Strategy Committee is seen in the party as a move to “make Amari preside over the referendum on constitutional revision,” according to former Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries Yuji Yamamoto.
Furthermore, Abe has decided to retain Koichi Hagiuda, who is ideologically close to him, as executive acting secretary general, and Chief Deputy Secretary General Shinjiro Koizumi, who has sometimes criticized the administration, has been relieved. A Diet member close to Abe says enthusiastically: “We must charge forward now that we have a two-thirds majority in the Diet (required for submitting constitutional revision motions).”
However, the more zealous Abe and his supporters get, the more strongly the opposition reacts, and even coalition partner Komeito becomes wary.
Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan Secretary General Tetsuro Fukuyama stressed to reporters on Oct. 2: “The longer the Abe administration continues, the stronger the opposition to constitutional revision among the people will be.”
In light of Abe’s indication of his intent to coordinate constitutional revision with Komeito, the party’s leader Natsuo Yamaguchi also stated on the same day: “Basically, the debate needs to deepen at the Commissions on the Constitution (of the Diet) and the people should also be informed properly.”
Even LDP members have voiced concern about this situation. A faction leader expressed the following opinion: “The Prime Minister has made appointments (to the party leadership) under his direct control. He might come up with constitutional revision proposals that would not even be acceptable to Komeito, needless to say the opposition.”
Shigeru Ishiba, who was defeated by Abe in the recent LDP presidential election, told reporters on Oct. 2: “LDP members and the general public have different views on the Constitution. We ask that they do not proceed according to a predetermined schedule,” in an attempt to restrain Abe. A senior LDP official laments that “political prospects (for constitutional revision) are completely uncertain.” (Slightly abridged)