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Candidates' opposition to revising Article 9 stronger than support: poll

Forty-five percent of all candidates running in the July 10 House of Councillors election are opposed to amending the war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution, surpassing the ratio of those in favor, a survey by the Mainichi Shimbun has shown.

The poll also found that 55 percent of all candidates are supportive of revising the Constitution itself, as opposed to 38 percent who are against revision -- suggesting that candidates are more cautious about altering Article 9.

With regard to Article 9, 23 percent of all candidates said the provision should be revised to transform the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) into a "national defense military" as in other countries, while another 15 percent said the article should be amended to clearly define the SDF's roles and limits.

Among candidates running on the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)'s ticket, 42 percent said Article 9 should be revised to clarify the SDF's roles and limitations, while 19 percent called for the revision to revamp the SDF into a national defense military. None of the LDP candidates answered that they were opposed to changing Article 9.

In a similar survey conducted ahead of the 2013 upper house election, 49 percent of LDP candidates said the SDF should be transformed into a national defense military -- 30 percentage points more than in the latest survey. While the LDP's draft revision to the Constitution advocates the creation of a national defense military, the decline in the latest survey figure may suggest that LDP candidates are more willing to keep in step with other parties in forming a consensus over constitutional revision.

A total of 32 percent of LDP candidates answered differently from the response options, with multiple candidates stating that "pacifism" stipulated in the first paragraph of Article 9 should be firmly upheld as a precondition for introducing a national defense military in the Constitution. If these answers are added, the percentage of LDP candidates endorsing a national defense military rises slightly.

Forty-six percent of candidates backed by the LDP's coalition partner Komeito said they were opposed to amending Article 9. Only 17 percent endorsed revisions to Article 9, saying the SDF's roles and limits should be clarified. The survey results highlighted a significant conflict of opinion between the LDP and Komeito over the ninth article of the supreme law.

As for candidates backed by the main opposition Democratic Party (DP), 67 percent opposed altering Article 9, while 13 percent approved amendment to the provision to clarify the SDF's roles and boundaries. Candidates running on the tickets of the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) were all opposed to changing Article 9.

With regard to a plan to initiate constitutional amendment with the creation of an "emergency clause" to respond to emergencies and major disasters, 68 percent of all candidates expressed an objection, while 20 percent were in favor. Among LDP candidates, 50 percent favored the proposal, while a mere 8 percent were against it. Over 80 percent of candidates backed by the DP, Komeito and Initiatives from Osaka disapproved of the suggestion, while all candidates supported by the JCP and SDP disagreed with it.

By gender, 58 percent of male candidates were in favor of changing the Constitution, while 35 percent were against amendment. Among female candidates, 46 percent affirmed revisions to the supreme law, a little less than the 47 percent who disapproved. As for Article 9, 53 percent of female candidates disagreed with changing the clause.

The survey also asked about Japan's new security legislation that came into effect in March -- which opened the way for the SDF to exercise the right to collective self-defense -- and found that 42 percent of all candidates in the July 10 election think the security laws should be abolished, forming the largest group of respondents. They were followed by those who believe the security laws are fine as they are at 24 percent; those who think the legislation should be modified to make it easier for the SDF to be dispatched overseas at 19 percent; and those who claim that the laws should be revised to put greater restrictions on the SDF's overseas missions, at 11 percent.

Among ruling party candidates, 82 percent of LDP runners and all Komeito members said the security laws are fine as they are. Ten percent of LDP candidates said the legislation should be changed to facilitate the SDF's deployment abroad.

In contrast, 85 percent of DP candidates called for repealing the security legislation, while another 11 percent said the SDF's missions outside Japan should be limited further. All candidates backed by the JCP or SDP were in favor of abolishing the security laws. Among candidates running on the ticket of Initiatives from Osaka, 78 percent called for imposing greater restrictions on SDF's overseas deployment.

The DP, JCP and two other key opposition parties have managed to field a joint candidate in each of the constituencies where one seat is up for grabs in the coming election, under the common goal of repealing the security legislation. In an attempt to counter the move, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is stepping up criticism against the opposition camp, saying, "The Japan-U.S. alliance would be overturned from its foundations if (the security laws) were abolished."

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