Japan's Abe to promote discussion on constitution reform in 2017
A day after stressing that the economy will be his top priority in the new year, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent a different message to members of his party on Thursday, saying he will promote discussion on revising the postwar Constitution.
“This year is a milestone that marks the 70th anniversary of the enforcement of the Constitution. What Constitution would be suitable for the new year?” Abe asked during a new year ceremony at the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s head office in Tokyo. “I’d like to deepen discussion so that a new form (of the Constitution) will finally emerge this year. That’s my hope,” said Abe, who also acts the LDP president.
In comments delivered on Wednesday in Ise, Mie Prefecture, Abe didn’t mention the Constitution and instead vowed to focus on his “economy first” policy for 2017. But in Thursday’s short, relaxed speech before LDP members, Abe didn’t discuss economic policies and instead briefly explained that he hopes to promote discussion on constitutional revision. “For that purpose, each of you will be asked to carry out your own responsibility,” Abe said without elaborating.
Abe is known to be an ardent advocate of revising the postwar Constitution, in particular the war-renouncing Article 9.
Public opinion polls show that voters are sharply split over constitutional issues, in particular the debate over Article 9. Abe’s focus on the economy is widely seen as a tactic to boost popularity and ease criticism over constitutional reform.
For an article in the Constitution to be revised, more than half of voters would have to give their support in a national referendum. A national referendum can be initiated with the support of more than two-thirds of both houses of the Diet, but pro-revision parties have so far been split over which article should be revised first.