Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Saturday he wants his Liberal Democratic Party to submit proposals for discussions on changing Japan’s Constitution during an extraordinary Diet session likely to be convened in the fall.
“I expect LDP proposals to be submitted at the Constitution commissions of the upper and lower houses before the extra Diet session ends,” Abe said in a speech in the city of Kobe, indicating his eagerness to step up discussion within the ruling party to realize the first-ever amendment of the country’s postwar Constitution.
Abe has set a year-end deadline for the LDP to devise its amendment proposals and it had been widely believed the party would seek to present them to the Constitution commissions in the next regular Diet session to be convened early next year.
The LDP has already started discussions among its members over the possible amendment of the war-renouncing Article 9, after Abe raised the issue of mentioning the Self-Defense Forces in the article to give the organization a legitimate position in the supreme law.
The LDP also sees the expansion of educational opportunities through cost-free education as another area of consideration for a constitutional change.
Abe said in the speech that discussing the future of education is “an extremely important topic” that should be dealt with in connection with constitutional amendments.
Abe has a golden opportunity to push for his cherished goal of rewriting the Constitution, drafted under the strong influence of the United States after World War II, as Abe’s LDP and other pro-amendment forces have secured the required two-thirds of seats in each of the two Diet chambers.
A majority of the Japanese people must also approve any proposed amendment to the constitution in a referendum.
The current Constitution has never been revised since it went into effect in 1947, nor has a bid been made to initiate a formal amendment process, partly because of the high hurdle in proposing an amendment in parliament before it can be put to a referendum.
Abe has said he hopes the revised supreme law will be put into force in 2020, when Japan will host the Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo.
Achieving the politically sensitive goal requires careful planning, with two major national elections upcoming — the House of Representatives election by December 2018 at the latest and the House of Councillors election in the summer of 2019.