National referendum law for constitutional amendments was a hard-won achievement

Article 96 of the Constitution stipulates that any amendment needs to be backed by at least two-thirds of lawmakers in both chambers of the Diet and a majority of support in a national referendum.

But the absence of specific rules for such a national referendum long forestalled attempts to revise the post-World War II Constitution. Indeed, it has never been amended.

Under the first government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a law outlining procedures for a national referendum was enacted in May 2007, 60 years after the Constitution came into effect on May 3, 1947.

Due to a confrontation with opposition parties, the ruling bloc had to railroad the legislation through the Lower House, the more powerful — and important — of the two chambers.

After the U.S. Occupation ended in 1952, a campaign to establish a new Constitution to replace the U.S.-drafted charter gathered momentum. In 1957, a panel of lawmakers and experts was set up by the Cabinet to conduct research on problems with the Constitution.

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