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LDP elusive over constitutional revision in election campaign pledge

Fumio Kishida, chairman of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party Policy Research Council, announces the party's general election campaign pledge at the party's headquarters in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on Oct. 2, 2017. (Mainichi)

The description of constitutional revision, which the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) incorporated in its campaign pledge for the Oct. 22 House of Representatives election as a key issue, lacks specifics and is elusive.

This is the first time that the LDP has incorporated constitutional amendment, a long-cherished goal for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, into key items in its campaign pledge for a major Diet election. The upcoming election is the fifth national full election since Abe became LDP leader in 2012.

Some LDP legislators had voiced opposition to the move, but the prime minister's intention to aim to see a revised Constitution come into force in 2020 was approved in the end.

In May, Abe expressed his strong desire to see a new Constitution take effect in 2020 and the presence of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) specified in its war-renouncing Article 9.

Following his declaration, the LDP's Headquarters for the Promotion of Revision to the Constitution began discussions on the party's 4-point proposal to amend the postwar Constitution. The four points are: stipulation of the existence of the SDF, making education free of charge and improving the quality of education, responding to emergency situations such as serious natural disasters, and the elimination of House of Councillors constituencies comprised of multiple prefectures.

The headquarters have thus far held six full sessions, but a conflict of opinion surfaced over Article 9 and a clause on response to emergency situations.

In particular, stiff opposition remains within the party to the prime minister's proposal to add a paragraph defining the SDF to Article 9 while retaining the clause's paragraph 1 renouncing war and paragraph 2 banning Japan from possessing any war potential.

A Constitution draft that the LDP unveiled in 2012 when it was an opposition party would replace paragraph 2 with one that stipulates Japan's possession of full-fledged national defense forces.

There are no signs that the intraparty dispute over Article 9 will end in the foreseeable future as former LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba and other senior LDP legislators who were involved in drawing up the 2012 draft remain opposed to the prime minister's proposal.

Still, the LDP managed to incorporate the four-point proposal on constitutional revision in its campaign pledge for the upcoming election, which states, "The LDP aims to submit its proposal for constitutional revision to the Diet, have the legislature initiate amendment to the supreme law, and achieve the first ever revision to the (postwar) Constitution."

At a news conference on Oct. 2, LDP policy chief Fumio Kishida said, "We presented our proposal in a way that stands out so that the public can be aware of the constitutional issue."

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