By Mie Sasaki, political news dept. chief
The 25th Upper House election, the first national election in the Reiwa era, has ended. The election makes Prime Minister Shinzo Abe the first Liberal Democratic Party president to have won six national elections for the Lower and Upper Houses. In November, he will become the longest-serving prime minister in the history of Japan’s constitutional government by surpassing Taro Katsura, a record that is also hard to break. The prime minister should stick to his determination to pave the way for the new Reiwa Era and settle the top priority issues of constitutional amendment and the abduction of Japanese nationals by North Korea as achievements of the unprecedentedly long government.
Abe returned to the LDP’s helm in September 2012. During the Lower House election held at the end of the year, he appealed to the public, saying: “The LDP is determined to rebuild Japan as a responsible political party. We’ll revitalize the economy, education, and diplomacy and definitely bring back the days when people can live with peace of mind” and recaptured the government. He has been fulfilling these campaign promises over six and a half years. On the diplomatic front, Japan-U.S. relations are closer than ever and Japan is trusted by the international community like never before.
Speaking of the Constitution, pro-amendment forces maintained the two-thirds majority in both chambers of the Diet needed to initiate the constitutional revision. But they were slow to move in the past three years. Admittedly, the LDP proposed four revisions to the Constitution, one of which would spell out the legitimacy of the Self-Defense Forces. The party has gone through procedures thought to be necessary for compiling the party’s opinions, such as approval at the party convention and the party’s presidential race.
But by no means can the party be said to being doing enough to improve public understanding and deepen discussion. The LDP is not immune from this criticism even though the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and other opposition parties are primarily responsible because they refuse to even convene the Commission on the Constitution and intentionally avoid discussion.
Through the latest election campaign, the prime minister asked eligible voters “whether it is good not to even discuss constitutional amendment.” The answer is shown in the LDP’s victory.
On the evening of July 21, immediately before polling stations closed, Abe met with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Taro Aso at his private residence in Tokyo’s Tomigaya district to exchange opinions about the future political schedule. He reportedly told Aso, “I’ll revise the Constitution” and they shared the recognition that the next one year would be crucial. That is exactly right. The passage of the constitutional amendment hinges on the determination of the prime minister and the LDP.