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Minimum voting age for constitutional referendums lowered to 18

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The minimum voting age for national referendums to amend the Constitution was lowered to 18 from 20 on Thursday as part of a series of changes in Japan to encourage social participation by young people.

While Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been eager to revise the war-renouncing Article 9 of the postwar Constitution, the prospects for holding the country's first referendum for constitutional amendment remain dim, with little parliamentary discussion of the issue in recent months.

Amending the supreme law requires approval by two-thirds majorities in both chambers of the parliament, followed by majority support in a national plebiscite.

The lowering of the voting age for referendums brings it into line with the voting age for elections, which was similarly lowered to 18 years from 2016. The Diet has also passed a law to lower the age of adulthood from 20 to 18 years from April 2022.

The constitutional referendum law, the revised version of which came into force on June 20, 2014, stipulated that Japanese nationals aged 20 or older can cast votes in referendums and that the minimum age to vote will be set at 18 four years later.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party came up with its own rough draft for a revision of Article 9 in March, which included an explicit reference to the country's Self-Defense Forces.

But the LDP has yet to hold full-fledged talks with other parties over its proposal amid a standoff between the ruling and opposition parties in the wake of a series of scandals linked to Abe and his government.

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