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74% back emperor as symbol of state defined by current Constitution: Mainichi poll

This file photo shows the National Diet Building in Tokyo. (Mainichi/Masahiro Kawata)

TOKYO -- Some 74% of respondents to a Mainichi Shimbun poll say they back the Imperial system as defined under the postwar Constitution, which turned 72 years old on May 3.

The poll, conducted on April 13-14, showed only 7% support for abolishing the current Imperial system, and 4% for increasing the power of the emperor. The status of the Japan's Imperial Throne is defined by the 1947 Constitution's Article 1, which states, "The Emperor shall be the symbol of the State and of the unity of the people, deriving his position from the will of the people with whom resides sovereign power."

When the ruling Liberal Democratic Party was in opposition in 2012, it compiled a draft list of proposed constitutional amendments, including one that would have redefined the emperor as "Japan's head of state." However, a more cautious approach has prevailed in both ruling and opposition camps over worries that the proposal could clash with the sovereignty of the people.

The latest Mainichi survey showed that 81% of LDP supporters backed the current "symbol of the State" Imperial system, as did 75% of independents.

On the question of whether the Constitution should be changed during the current administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, 48% of poll respondents were opposed and 31% in favor. LDP backers favored amendment by 61% to 24%, but the numbers were nearly the reverse among independents, with 56% opposed and 21% in favor.

The LDP drew up a revision proposal in 2018 to specify the existence of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) in the Constitution's Article 9. This article's first paragraph renounces "war as a sovereign right of the nation," and its second declares that Japan will never maintain "land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential." The LDP held that the SDF needed to be specified in the article to prevent them from conflicting with the second paragraph.

Respondent opinion on this proposal was just about evenly split, with 27% in favor and 28% against. However, both sides were beat out by the 32% who said they did not know how to respond.

(Japanese original by Satoru Iwashima, Poll Office)

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