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Polls show Abe grabbing big win in general election

By Cai Hong in Tokyo | China Daily | Updated: 2017-10-13 07:59

Rise of the Party of Hope will help PM's drive to rewrite Constitution

The move to revise Japan's Constitution is expected to gain pace after the general election on Oct 22 as opinion polls show that the ruling Liberal Democratic Party is heading for a solid win.

Since its return to power in 2012, the LDP has, for the first time, put constitutional amendment in its campaign platform. Its pledge for revisions includes putting Japan's Self-Defense Forces under the Constitution and granting the government emergency powers in case of a national crisis.

A survey conducted by the Japanese agency Kyodo News on Tuesday and Wednesday showed that the LDP and its coalition ally Komeito are expected to grab a two-thirds majority with more than 300 seats in the 465-seat Lower House, which Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dissolved on Sept 28.

The new Party of Hope, led by Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, may win around 60 seats, and another new face, the Constitutional Democratic Party, is likely to take about 30. They will be the three largest parties in Japan's political landscape.

The rise of the conservative Party of Hope, which vows to put an end to Abe's "strongman politics", will help the Japanese prime minister's drive to rewrite the Constitution. Another Kyodo News survey showed that 90.6 percent of the Party of Hope's candidates in the election are in favor of amending the Constitution, and more than 90 percent of candidates running on the Komeito's ticket also support constitutional revision. The candidates from the two parties, however, are divided on whether the job should be done under the Abe administration.

On the most sensitive issue of the Constitution's Article 9, Abe has proposed adding a new clause that legitimizes the SDF while keeping intact its original text that renounces the threat or use of force in settling international disputes and vows that land, sea and air forces "will never be maintained". Abe wants a new Constitution to go effect in 2020.

However, the LDP's amendment draft, released in 2012, called for stipulating that Japan owns a national defense force by deleting the part in Article 9 that disavows the possession of war potential.

The Party of Hope's campaign platform also shows the enthusiasm discussing how the Constitution should "fit the times", including recognizing the existence of the SDF. The party has been criticized by Japan Communist Party as "nothing more than an appendage to LDP power" for its support for the security-related laws and constitutional revision.

A smaller conservative party, Japan Innovation Party, also supports discussions on revising the Constitution, including Article 9.

Constitutional revision requires a two-thirds majority in both houses of Japan's parliament as well as a majority of public support in a national referendum.

In calling a snap election, Abe has set a goal of winning a majority - at least 233 seats - for his ruling bloc. If not, he will resign. Abe has won four national elections in a row since 2012.

About 74 percent voters said they are interested in the upcoming poll, up from 67.1 percent for the general election in 2014, according to the Kyodo News. But 54.4 percent are swing voters, leaving room for change.

caihong@chinadaily.com.cn

(China Daily 10/13/2017 page12)

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