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LDP's junior coalition partner Komeito wary of hasty constitutional revisions

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)'s junior coalition partner, Komeito, is believed to hold the key to how the debate over constitutional amendment will pan out, now that the pro-amendment camp has secured two-thirds of the seats in both the House of Councillors and the House of Representatives.

In addition to Komeito's wariness toward hasty and sloppy revision of the Constitution, there are discrepancies between what the Komeito and the LDP want to see changed, and how. But Komeito apparently believes specific discussion of constitutional amendment is going to be unavoidable, now, following the results of the July 10 upper house election. Aside from debate among ruling and opposition parties in the constitutional commissions in both houses, Komeito has already begun looking into establishing a framework in which the LDP and Komeito will deliberate the issue.

From the beginning, Komeito had praised the current Constitution as being sufficiently accepted by the public, but was in favor of adding new clauses. Komeito was established under the banner of "the party of peace," and many of its supporters are apprehensive toward constitutional revision and in particular, strongly object to changing war-renouncing Article 9. Indeed, for the party, constitutional amendment is hardly a top priority issue. "There was no need (for the pro-amendment camp) to take two-thirds of the seats in the upper house," a senior Komeito official said, wary of quick-and-dirty advocacy for constitutional amendment under the LDP's initiative.

Now that the discussion of constitutional debate can no longer be avoided, however, Komeito has begun to place priority on building a framework in which the pro-amendment camp will proceed with deliberations. In particular, it believes that reaching a consensus with the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) on which constitutional provisions are to be changed will be crucial. "We should work toward consensus-building in the Diet," Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi said on a television program on the night of July 10. "We should not rush (constitutional amendment)."

Komeito's focus on consensus-building with the DP is an indication of the former's hope of avoiding letting the discussion from progressing at the LDP's favored pace. Komeito places importance on cooperating with the DP in debates in the upper and lower house constitutional commissions as well. And while LDP Secretary-General Sadakazu Tanigaki and some other LDP officials touched upon the possibility of cooperating with the DP, that sentiment is not shared by all LDP lawmakers. The ruling parties will need to coordinate how they will go about the process.

As for the ruling party deliberations on constitutional revision, Komeito officials eye reincarnating the speedy manner in which the ruling parties coordinated their agreement on security-related legislation last year. The Komeito is now envisioning first closing the gap between itself and the LDP over amendments, then securing the agreement of the DP, and finally consulting the constitutional commissions.

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