Japan's Abe to push pacifist constitution
reform after strong election win
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[October 23, 2017]
By Linda Sieg
TOKYO (Reuters) - Prime Minister Shinzo
Abe, buoyed by a huge election win for lawmakers who favor revising
Japan's post-war, pacifist constitution, signaled a push towards his
long-held goal on Monday but will need to convince a divided public to
Parties in favor of amending the U.S.-drafted charter won nearly 80
percent of the seats in Sunday's lower house election, media counts
That left the small, new Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ)
as the biggest group opposed to Abe's proposed changes.
Formed by liberal members of the Democratic Party, which imploded before
the election and no longer exists in the lower house, the CDPJ won 55
seats, a final count by public broadcaster NHK shows. That is a fraction
of the ruling bloc's two-thirds majority of 313 seats in the 465-member
Abe said he wanted to get other parties on board, including Tokyo
Governor Yuriko Koike's new conservative Party of Hope, and was not
insisting on a target of changing the constitution by 2020 that he
floated this year.
"We won a two-thirds majority as the ruling bloc, but it is necessary to
strive to form a wide-ranging agreement among the ruling bloc and
opposition (to revise the constitution)," Abe told a news conference on
"And then we aim to win the understanding of the people, so that we can
gain a majority in a referendum," Abe said. He stopped short of claiming
to have won a mandate for amending the constitution in Sunday's
Amending the charter's pacifist Article 9 would be hugely symbolic for
Japan. Supporters see it as the foundation of post-war democracy but
many conservatives view it as a humiliating imposition after Japan's
defeat in 1945.
It would also be a victory for Abe, whose conservative agenda of
restoring traditional values, stressing obligations to the state over
individual rights and loosening constraints on the military, centers on
revising the constitution.
"Mr. Abe is trying to create a legacy. His first legacy project was to
get the economy out of deflation," said Jesper Koll, head of equities
fund WisdomTree Japan.
"The second legacy is to change the constitution," he said. "You can
debate whether he has a mandate but what will make or break him ... is
the constitutional issue."
Any revision of the constitution requires support from two-thirds of the
members of both chambers of parliament and a majority in a public
referendum, with no minimum quorum.
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Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is also leader of the Liberal
Democratic Party (LDP), attends a news conference at LDP
headquarters in Tokyo, Japan October 23, 2017. REUTERS/Toru Hanai
"I think that debate in parliament will begin," said Zentaro Kamei,
a senior researcher at think tank PHP Institute and a former
lawmaker of Abe's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
"But the reason given for this snap election was Abe's proposal to
change what sales tax hike revenues would be used for. If he starts
talking about the constitution, people will say, 'You didn't ask me
that'," Kamei said.
Abe proposed last May adding a clause to Article 9 to legitimize
Japan's Self-Defence Force. Read literally, Article 9 bans a
standing military but has been interpreted to allow armed forces
exclusively for self defense.
Parliament enacted laws in 2015 allowing Japan to exercise
collective self-defense, or aid allies under attack, based on a
reinterpretation of the constitution rather than a formal revision.
Critics, including CDPJ leader Yukio Edano, say those laws violate
The LDP's junior partner, the Komeito, is cautious about revising
Article 9, perhaps even more so after signs that some of its dovish
supporters had voted for the CDPJ. It also believes the biggest
opposition party should agree with the proposed changes.
Opinion polls show the public is divided on Abe's proposal. An NHK
survey before the election showed 32 percent in favor, 21 percent
opposed, and 39 percent unsure.
Media exit polls showed that, despite the LDP's big win, 51 percent
of voters do not trust the prime minister, a hangover from suspected
cronyism scandals that eroded his support this year and a potential
risk in case of a referendum.
(Additional reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Paul Tait and
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