Abe puts eased rules for constitutional revisions on July election agenda

May 02, 2013

By TAKUYA SUZUKI/ Staff Writer

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia--Japan’s ruling party will promise to ease requirements for constitutional revisions during the Upper House election campaign in July, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, despite acknowledging the plan has not received wide support.

Abe has long expressed interest in rewriting Japan’s pacifist Constitution. Revising Article 96, which lays out the rules and procedures for constitutional revisions, would make it easier for his Liberal Democratic Party to amend other clauses.

“Constitutional revisions have been a goal since the LDP was established,” Abe told reporters during his Middle Eastern tour on May 1. “We promised to revise Article 96 as a first step during the Lower House election last year.

“Obviously, our stance will not change for the upcoming Upper House election.”

Under Article 96, the Diet needs support of at least two-thirds of lawmakers in each chamber to initiate a revision. The revision would be approved with a majority of support in a referendum.

In a draft proposal to revise the Constitution released last year, the LDP called for easing the requirement to initiate a revision to a majority in each Diet chamber.

Abe said that before revising Article 96, he has some unfinished work to do concerning the national referendum law, which was enacted in 2007 during his first stint as prime minister to establish procedures for amending the Constitution.

He said the law needs to be harmonized with stipulations of the Public Offices Election Law and the Civil Code.

Although the eligible voting age in Japan is 20 years old, the law would allow 18-year-olds or older to take part in a referendum on constitutional revisions.

Abe said the LDP hopes to partner with forces that support revising Article 96, such as the Japan Restoration Party, after the Upper House election.

“We will make efforts to assemble two-thirds (of members) in both the lower and upper houses,” he said.

Abe did concede that the proposal to revise Article 96 has not gained momentum among the public. An Asahi Shimbun survey showed that 54 percent of voters are against easing the conditions in Article 96.

Even ruling coalition partner New Komeito is opposed to revising the clause.

“We well understand New Komeito’s stance,” Abe said. “We want to advance discussions in good faith.”

But Abe said the government has no plans to explain future discussions to China and South Korea, saying any debate over the Constitution is a domestic issue.

Turning to the economy, Abe said the government will hold fast to its fiscal reform goal.

Japan has internationally promised to halve the fiscal 2010 ratio of its primary deficit to gross domestic product by fiscal 2015. The primary deficit is the amount of public policy expenditures not covered by tax revenue.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga has suggested that the target may be reviewed, but Abe told reporters that the goal remains unchanged.

Asked about the possibility of dissolving the Lower House to set up twin elections in July, Abe simply said he wants to dissolve the chamber “at an appropriate time.”

By TAKUYA SUZUKI/ Staff Writer
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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe gives a speech at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on May 1. (Teruo Kashiyama)

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe gives a speech at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on May 1. (Teruo Kashiyama)

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  • Prime Minister Shinzo Abe gives a speech at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on May 1. (Teruo Kashiyama)

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