Debate over constitutional revision could heat up, depending on the results of the upper house election next month, in which revising the supreme law, a goal of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, will likely become a key issue.
Abe said in a press conference on Wednesday the upper house election will be held on July 10, with official campaigning kicking off on June 22.
Members of civic groups opposed to revising the Constitution call for protecting the war-renouncing Article 9, while those supporting revision hope a win by the ruling bloc led by Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party in the House of Councillors election will add momentum to constitutional changes.
Abe is seeking to amend an Article 9 clause and wants to clarify that the provision does not restrict the nation from defending itself, including exercising the right to collective self-defense, or using force to support an ally under attack even if Japan itself is not attacked.
But opponents of constitutional revision are afraid that the premier would try to keep the controversial issue vague during the election campaign.
“With other issues such as (a delayed hike in) consumption tax and social welfare drawing attention, many voters wouldn’t turn to the Constitution,” said Ken Takada, an organizer of a series of mass protest rallies against constitutional revision.
Takada added Abe could “gain confidence” if strong support for the ruling camp is proven in the election’s results.
A constitutional amendment must be proposed by the Diet with the backing of two-thirds of the members in each house of parliament and a majority of the Japanese people must approve it in a referendum. The conditions have never been met, leaving the supreme law as it is.
Meanwhile, Akira Momochi, who is a constitutional law professor at Nihon University and head of a group supporting constitutional revision, said the Constitution has not been revised since it was promulgated 70 years ago, hampered by a high bar of “two-thirds of lawmakers.”
“The upcoming election is important as the ‘wall’ may be broken. I hope we will have an opportunity to make a decision” in the referendum, Momochi said.