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LDP may include Article 9 revision draft in campaign promises for snap election

Okiharu Yasuoka speaks during a meeting of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)'s Headquarters for the Promotion of Revision to the Constitution at the party headquarters in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward, on Sept. 20, 2017. (Mainichi)

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)'s panel for constitutional amendments is considering including a draft revision to the war-renouncing Article 9 of Japan's Constitution in the party's campaign pledges for the upcoming House of Representatives election so as to clarify the existence of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF).

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has solidified his decision to dissolve the lower house at the start of the Diet's extraordinary session scheduled to convene on Sept. 28. At a board meeting of the LDP's Headquarters for the Promotion of Revision to the Constitution on Sept. 20, chairman Okiharu Yasuoka asked the LDP leadership to entrust him with the decision about whether or not to make the constitutional revisions that Abe suggested part of the election platform.

However, there are still many lawmakers within the LDP who favor the party's 2012 constitutional revision draft, which incorporates the creation of a "national defense army" under Article 9. It therefore remains to be seen if Abe's suggestion of keeping the first and second paragraphs of Article 9 as they are, while providing for the SDF in the Constitution, will be accepted by other party members.

On the morning of Sept. 20, Yasuoka and Masahiko Komura, special adviser to the constitutional amendment panel and LDP vice president, along with other members of the panel's leadership, met at the party's headquarters to discuss campaign pledges.

Since June of this year, the LDP has debated over four areas of constitutional revision. These include clarifying the existence of the SDF, making public education free of cost, adding an emergency clause in the event of major disasters and other emergencies and eliminating the merged constituencies in the House of Councillors.

After the meeting, Yasuoka told the media, "We would like to present our arguments about these four areas to the citizens of Japan and show our enthusiasm about the issue," suggesting his intention to make the reforms part of the election campaign.

Concerning the clarification of the SDF's existence in Article 9, no progress has been made in discussions within the party as former LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba and others have shown support for the 2012 draft that calls for the deletion of the second paragraph of Article 9, which promises that Japan will not maintain "war potential" and the buildup of a national defense army. In party debate held on Sept. 12, opinions arose that both drafts for revision to Article 9 should be presented side-by-side.

From the beginning, LDP members have been cautious about bringing constitutional revision to the forefront in the next lower house election, voicing the necessity of prioritizing economic issues during the campaign.

Along these lines, concerning making constitutional revision a campaign promise, LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai stated at a press conference on Sept. 19 that, "This is not something that should be rushed, but rather an issue that is important to address carefully."

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