Japan’s ruling party cautious on constitutional revision at annual convention

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, center, and other lawmakers of his ruling Liberal Democratic Party attend a party convention in Tokyo on Sunday. Photo: KYODO

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TOKYO, Feb 10, 2019, Kyodo. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party struck a cautious tone on its long-cherished goal of revising Japan’s pacifist Constitution at its an annual convention Sunday as it braces for local and national elections later in the year, reported the Japan Today.

In his address, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is the LDP president, reiterated his desire to amend the supreme law by clarifying the status of the Self-Defense Forces in the war-renouncing Article 9 to end academic debates over their constitutionality, but stopped short of mentioning detailed procedures and their timeframe.

The party’s action plan endorsed at the convention backpedaled on its push to realize the first-ever amendment to the 1947 Constitution, merely touching on the issue only in one paragraph in its preamble, although it dedicated a separate chapter to the subject last year.

“We are committed to igniting public interest and paving the way toward amending the Constitution that conforms to the current time,” the annual strategy said.

The party’s cautious tone apparently reflects the reluctance of its members particularly in regional chapters to highlight the divisive topic in the upcoming elections.

The party did not present its own proposals to the Constitution commissions of the two houses of the Diet during an extra parliament session last year, though Abe, elected for his third and last three-year term as LDP president in its intraparty election last September, has maintained he wants to revise the supreme law by 2020.

Currently, pro-constitutional reform forces have a two-thirds majorities in both Diet chambers, meeting the requirement to initiate the amendment process. Any proposals must eventually be approved by a majority in a national referendum.

Abe had hoped that the LDP’s proposals put together in March last year would be submitted during the extraordinary Diet session that started late October, and for further discussions to be held with opposition parties.

But an intensifying confrontation between the ruling and opposition parties over a bill aimed at accepting more foreign workers into Japan made it difficult for lawmakers to engage in full-fledged and highly-sensitive constitutional discussions.

As for a series of local government elections in April and the House of Councillors election in the summer, the annual strategy for 2019 urged candidates to strengthen their support bases to clinch victories even if they face unexpected circumstances.

“Local assemblies are the foundation of the LDP,” Abe said in his speech at the convention.

On foreign policy, Abe reaffirmed his resolve to advance negotiations with Russia toward concluding a postwar peace treaty, which has not been signed due to a territorial dispute over a group of islets off Japan’s northernmost main island of Hokkaido.

Among domestic issues, the prime minister apologized for the labor ministry’s release for years of faulty jobs statistics that resulted in the underpayment of work-related benefits to tens of millions of people and the undermining of trust in the accuracy of government statistics.

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