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Despite lack of momentum to revise Constitution, PM Abe pushes on in bid to stay in power

Attendees at a rally organized by a conservative group listen to a video message from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on May 3, 2018. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- Even though moves to revise the postwar Constitution are losing momentum, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has kept appealing for amendment to the supreme law in a desperate bid to stay in power, say observers.

In a video message released at a conservative organization's rally in Tokyo on Constitution Day on May 3, Prime Minister Abe said, "The time has come for us to work on constitutional revisions." Many of the attendees are believed to be conservatives who have supported the prime minister.

At a rally of the same organization just a year earlier, Prime Minister Abe declared that he would aim to incorporate a clause stipulating the existence of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) into the Constitution and have a revised Constitution come into force in 2020.

The political environment surrounding moves to amend the Constitution is becoming severer than last year because of a series of political scandals that have hit the Abe government.

Suspicions surrounding the heavily discounted sale of a state-owned land lot to the Moritomo Gakuen school corporation and Kake Educational Institution's establishment of a veterinary school have been growing. A conflict between ruling and opposition parties over these scandals has blocked Diet debate on constitutional reform.

Critics have pointed out that these two favoritism scandals are rooted in harmful effects of Abe's long-time rule of the government. Some opposition parties are in favor of constitutional revisions but have voiced objections to amending the supreme law under the Abe administration.

Despite such a situation, a source close to the government pointed out that Prime Minister Abe needs to maintain his policy to stay in power.

"Even though the situation is severe, the prime minister has no choice but to demonstrate that he continues to aim to amend the Constitution. It's important for him to keep consistency in his position," the source said.

If the public thinks that the prime minister's stance is wavering over his long-cherished constitutional revisions, he could lose support even from conservatives, which could deal a fatal blow to his administration, the source suggested.

Another source familiar with the government said, "What should he aim to do in seeking a third term as president (of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party)? The only thing left for him is constitutional revision," the source said.

(Japanese original by Hiroyuki Tanaka, Political News Department)

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