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LDP politically isolated as other parties reluctant to talk about constitutional revision

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks at a House of Representatives Budget Committee session on Nov. 2, 2018. (Mainichi/Masahiro Kawata)

TOKYO -- The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is being increasingly isolated in talks about constitutional revisions as other political parties including the LDP's junior coalition partner Komeito are reluctant to discuss the issue.

At a House of Representatives Budget Committee session on Nov. 2, Takeshi Shina of the opposition Democratic Party for the People (DPFP) warned Prime Minister Abe against making haste to amend the pacifist postwar Constitution.

In response, Abe urged political parties to make amendment proposals of their own. "The legislature can't provide members of the general public with information for making decisions unless political parties show their plans and discuss them," the prime minister said.

Abe, also leader of the LDP, appointed ally and former Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Yoshitaka Shindo as the ruling bloc's chief representative in the lower chamber's Commission on the Constitution.

Hakubun Shimomura, head of the LDP's Headquarters for the Promotion of Revision to the Constitution, urged the party's branches across the country to set up headquarters to promote revisions in a desperate bid to increase momentum for constitutional reform.

Nevertheless, the gap between the LDP and other parties on the issue is only widening.

Komeito is worried that if the Abe administration presses forward with constitutional reform in a high-handed manner, it will adversely affect the outcome of the summer 2019 House of Councillors election.

Meanwhile, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP), the largest opposition bloc in both Diet chambers, has refused to cooperate with the LDP on revisions to the supreme law. Instead, the CDP is calling for thorough deliberations on amendments to the Act on Procedures for Amendment of the Constitution of Japan, the law governing the procedures for constitutional changes.

The LDP then approached the second largest opposition DPFP, and Shimomura believed the party would agree to hold discussions on constitutional revisions with some conditions attached. However, the DPFP has responded by proposing a bill to tighten restrictions on television commercials sponsored by political parties and other organizations calling for the public to support or oppose constitutional amendments.

A senior LDP official expressed displeasure at the move, saying the DPFP "is trying to delay discussions on the Constitution."

Moreover, deputy head of Komeito Kazuo Kitagawa said the party will seriously consider the No. 2 opposition party's proposal. Komeito and key opposition parties are positioning themselves to take significant time to discuss constitutional revision procedures.

This resistance is forcing the LDP to compromise with other parties. "How about discussing the matter at the commissions on the Constitution (at both houses of the Diet)?" said former LDP Vice President Masahiko Komura.

Members of parties other than the LDP are criticizing Abe, head of the executive branch of the government, for mentioning constitutional reform so frequently. "It's only the Diet, the legislative branch, that can initiate constitutional amendment," one of the critics noted.

Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi warned the prime minister against mentioning the matter. "The executive branch shouldn't intervene (in the legislative branch's discussions on constitutional revisions)," he said.

Though Abe has called for inclusion of a paragraph explicitly defining the Self-Defense Forces in war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution, the premier provided a lame explanation of his past statements on the issue at a lower house Budget Committee session on Nov. 2. "I only expressed my personal views, but have never commented specifically on the LDP's proposal (on constitutional revisions)," he said.

(Japanese original by Hiroyuki Tanaka and Akira Murao, Political News Department)

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