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Abe wants to create new LDP constitutional revision draft including SDF

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, center left, speaks during a House of Councillors Budget Committee meeting on May 9, 2017, while Democratic Party leader Renho, second from bottom right, raises her hand. (Mainichi)

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he would aim to create the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)'s new draft for a revised Constitution, which would retain two paragraphs in war-renouncing Article 9 while adding a third one providing for the existence of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF), expressing his view that it would be difficult to win two-thirds of the vote in the Diet for initiating constitutional reform with the ruling party's existing draft.

"We have to map out a totally different plan from conventional LDP constitutional amendment drafts, otherwise it would be difficult to win support from two-thirds of Diet lawmakers (in both houses)," Abe told a meeting of the House of Councillors Budget Committee on May 9.

During the meeting, Abe restated his proposal for constitutional revision, which he had announced via a video message on May 3, to retain Paragraph 1 and 2 of Article 9 and add a third paragraph on the existence of the SDF, and that it was the basis for his thoughts on constitutional amendment. He also expressed his intention to draw up a new draft for the revision for the LDP to present to the commissions on the Constitution at both chambers of the Diet.

The ruling party's 2012 draft, which has an explicit provision on the retention of a "national defense army" under Article 9, has been shelved following a strong backlash from opposition parties and experts. While Prime Minister Abe acknowledges the 2012 draft as "the best for the LDP," he has said he recognizes "the cold fact that it would not gain majority support in the Diet."

Abe told the May 9 upper house panel meeting that stating the existence of the SDF in the supreme law is his "utmost priority." He said, "70-80 percent of constitutional scholars say the SDF are 'unconstitutional' and it is our generation's responsibility to change the status quo," adding his understanding that the scope of the SDF's use of force would be limited under his proposal for the new draft.

Abe also said he was expecting to face criticism within his own party since his plan for the new draft is different from the party's 2012 draft, but commented, "I would like to achieve results while facing such criticism." He referred to the 2020 deadline mentioned in the video message, by which Abe said he hopes to enact and implement the new Constitution, saying, "It is a goal as there is growing momentum to start a new Japan with Tokyo hosting the Olympics (in 2020)."

Abe also requested the largest opposition Democratic Party (DP) to present a concrete plan for constitutional amendment to the Constitution commissions. However, DP leader Renho slammed Abe's move, saying, "It only appears that he wants to change the Constitution while he is the prime minister, not because he feels there is a lack (in the supreme law)." Renho pointed out that over the past few years the prime minister has named a number of articles he wishes to change or add into the Constitution, such as revising Article 96 to relax rules regarding constitutional amendment and creating an "emergency clause" -- which would allow exceptional extensions of terms for lawmakers in case of emergencies such as natural disasters.

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