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Japan set to begin Constitution debate

By Cai Hong in Tokyo | China Daily | Updated: 2017-11-23 07:42

Japan's ruling and opposition parties agreed on Wednesday that the parliament will start substantive deliberations on constitutional revision on Nov 30, the Kyodo News reported.

Lawmakers from different parties are expected to come out with a report on details of a referendum based on their visits to three European countries, including Britain and Italy in July.

The Kyodo News said the ruling Liberal Democratic Party will present its proposal on amending the Constitution to the ordinary session of the parliament, which is to be convened in January.

The LDP, its coalition partner Komeito and other pro-constitutional reform forces have controlled two-thirds majorities in both houses of the parliament, the threshold for initiating an amendment. And any initiation also needs to be approved by a majority of voters in a national referendum.

An opinion poll conducted by the Mainichi Shimbun on Nov 11-12 showed that 66 percent of the interviewees said the country's parliament does not have to rush to revise the Constitution. Twenty-four percent said the legislature should.

The LDP aims to make four changes to the Constitution. It wants to add a clause that would legitimize Japan's quasi-army the Self-Defense Forces to Article 9 and keep the original two clauses that require Japan to renounce war and the maintenance of "war potential" intact.

The Mainichi Shimbun's respondents were divided on whether they supported the LDP's proposal for changing Article 9. The poll found that 33 percent of the interviewees supported the proposal and 29 percent were against it, while 34 percent were unsure.

The LDP's other amendment proposals include a controversial plan to allow suspension of parts of the Constitution during a state of emergency. The LDP has sought to amend the Constitution since its inception in 1955.

Abe's push

In his policy speech delivered at the parliament on Friday, Abe called for discussions on constitutional revision between the ruling and opposition parties. But he stopped short of naming the specific articles of the Constitution he wants to amend and didn't outline a timeline for revising the Constitution.

In May, he said he wanted a new Constitution to go into effect in 2020.

Even among supporters of the LDP, 51 percent in the Mainichi Shimbun survey said the parliament does not have to rush to amend the Constitution.

But debate on constitutional revision is gathering steam in Japan.

The Jiji Press reported that the Party of Hope, which was established in September and stands behind constitutional reform, had its first deliberation on potential revisions on Wednesday.

caihong@chinadaily.com.cn

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