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Spotlight on party pledges in upper house election: the Constitution

In order to amend the Constitution, a motion to do so must be supported by at least two-thirds of all members of both the House of Councillors and House of Representatives. The proposal must then secure a simple majority in a national referendum.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its junior coalition partner Komeito already have a two-thirds majority in the lower house, so a focus of the July 10 upper house election is whether forces in favor of changing the Constitution will be able to reach the two-thirds mark of 162 seats.

The LDP, which has called for the establishment of an independent Constitution since its founding in 1955, has stated in its election pledge that it will "proceed with discussion in the Commissions on the Constitution in the upper and lower chambers of the Diet, and work together with each of the parties." The reason the LDP avoided mentioning the draft Constitution it released in 2012 when it was an opposition party and said it would work with other parties is believed to be because it envisages adding constitutional amendment to its political agenda after the election. Before the upper house election was announced, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he hoped to have the Commissions on the Constitution get to work during the next session of the Diet. The committees didn't hold substantial discussion during the regular Diet session.

Komeito, meanwhile, totally avoids mention of the Constitution in its collection of pledges being distributed to voters. A message on the party's website merely carries the abstract statement, "It is important to deepen debate in the Diet and share direction with the public." Komeito supports constitutional amendment by way of adding new provisions to the Constitution, but party leader Natsuo Yamaguchi has taken a cautious stance on the issue, saying that moves toward amending the supreme law are "not ripe."

The prime minister expects cooperation on constitutional amendment from the opposition parties Initiatives from Osaka and the Party for Japanese Kokoro. Initiatives from Osaka has suggested items for constitutional revision in line with its main policies such as reform of government structure including the implementation of a regional system. The party's secretary-general, Nobuyuki Baba, said that he wouldn't rule out the possibility that his party may support a draft for constitutional revision if it incorporated the party's claims.

The Party for Japanese Kokoro is calling for stipulations on the right to invoke state emergencies and to maintain war potential for the purpose of self-defense.

Neither the LDP nor Komeito have stated which part of the Constitution they would start revising first. A ruling party official said that if Initiatives from Osaka and the Party for Japanese Kokoro were brought into the amendment process, it's unlikely discussion on each issue would be straightforward.

The Democratic Party (DP), Japanese Communist Party (JCP), Social Democratic Party (SDP) and People's Life Party & Taro Yamamoto and Friends (PLP) are opposed to constitutional revision under the Abe administration, and the four parties have criticized the ruling coalition for avoiding mention of constitutional revision during campaign speeches, saying it is hiding the points of contention in the election.

The DP has opposed revision to war-renouncing Article 9. It argues, "The LDP is going to propose revising Article 9 and creating a national defense military to allow the exercising of the right to collective self-defense without constitutional constraints." However, unlike the JCP and SDP, it has not rejected the possibility of constitutional revision, saying it will conceive a future-oriented Constitution responding to changes in the times.

The JCP has stressed that it will protect the Constitution including the preamble. It has criticized the LDP, saying that the LDP's draft Constitution "denies constitutionalism that binds authority through the Constitution, drastically changing it to bind the people through the Constitution."

The SDP has pledged to fully defend the Constitution, saying it will not allow alteration of the "pacifist Constitution." The PLP, meanwhile, says that it respects the ideals of the Constitution under the four principles, including sovereignty of the people.

The New Renaissance Party (NRP) says it is too early to amend the Constitution.

Makoto Ito, an official handling constitutional issues at the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, commented, "During this election, it's important to be aware of not just campaign pledges, but the things each party has stressed up to this point."

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Campaign pledges of each party regarding the Constitution:

LDP: Aim to revise the Constitution, proceeding with discussion in the Commissions on the Constitution in the upper and lower chambers of the Diet, in collaboration with each party and working to achieve public consensus.

DP: Steadfastly protect the pacifism of the Constitution. Envisage with the public a future-oriented Constitution with new human rights and governmental system reform.

Komeito: No mention of Constitution in manifesto.

JCP: Do not allow the Constitution to be changed for the worse by the Abe administration. Protect all articles of the Constitution including the preamble, and fully implement peaceful and democratic clauses.

Initiatives from Osaka: Make education tuition-free through constitutional revision. Implement governmental system reform including the introduction of a regional system, and establish a constitutional court.

SDP: Protect the three basic principles of the Constitution. Develop laws and proceed with policy proposals to embody the ideals of the Constitution.

PLP: Respect the ideals of the Constitution under the four principles of sovereignty of the people, respect for basic human rights, pacifism and international coordination.

Party for Japanese Kokoro: Aim to establish an independent Constitution. Consider the Emperor's position. Provide regulations on the right to invoke state emergencies, relax the conditions for initiating constitutional amendment.

NRP: Each party's efforts to form public consensus is important. It is too early to revise the Constitution.

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