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LDP abandons striking intraparty consensus on Constitution before New Year

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has abandoned trying to strike an internal consensus within the year on a four-point plan to revise the postwar Constitution, party sources said.

The LDP leadership has deemed it impossible to coordinate views on constitutional amendment, including stipulating the existence of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF), as discussions on the issue were delayed by the Oct. 22 House of Representatives election, according to the sources.

Though the governing party is aiming to reach intraparty agreement on the Constitution at the beginning of 2018 at the earliest, it is possible that the Diet will not be able to initiate revisions during next year's regular session, as desired by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. In the meantime, the LDP's Headquarters for the Promotion of Revision to the Constitution has essentially approved an outline of a basic plan to amend Article 47 and Article 92 such that House of Councillors constituencies comprising multiple prefectures are eliminated.

Under the basic proposal, a paragraph stating that the demarcation of upper chamber constituencies should be determined while taking into account administrative districts and other matters would be added to Article 47, which stipulates that electoral districts should be fixed by law. Moreover, a paragraph would be added stating that at least one person should be elected from each broad local administrative district.

Since the Constitution makes no mention of prefectures, a paragraph defining local public entities as prefectures, cities, towns and villages would be incorporated in Article 92.

However, Article 43 stipulating that Diet members are representatives of all the people, and Article 14 providing for equality under law, would not be revised under the LDP's proposal. Therefore, the LDP proposal to require at least one upper house member to be elected from each prefecture could be inconsistent with the principle of vote-value equality rooted in these two clauses.

The LDP intends to begin drafting relevant clauses. However, as political parties are sharply divided over specific measures to rectify the wide vote-value disparity in both houses of the Diet, they could voice objections to the LDP plan.

Meanwhile, there is no prospect that the LDP can form a near-term intraparty consensus on the three other points: Prime Minister Abe's proposal to add a paragraph stipulating the existence of the SDF into war-renouncing Article 9; making education free of charge; and government emergency powers during crises such as serious natural disasters.

Since Abe has emphasized that he will run his government "carefully," discussions with other parties over constitutional revisions could take longer than expected.

Naoki Okada, secretary-general of the LDP's Headquarters for the Promotion of Revision to the Constitution, said, "Our schedule is not set in stone. There're numerous issued that remain unaddressed."

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