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Tuesday, 3rd May 2016
In General Japan News,

Japan's constitution turns 69

Japan marked 69 years since its constitution was adopted today (May 3rd), but it looks like there could be changes ahead for the historic document.

Prime minister Shinzo Abe has plans to amend the constitution, but whether or not such moves will go through depends on the outcome of the summer’s Upper House elections.

The proposed changes centre around Article 9, which outlaws war as a way to deal with international disputes and could greatly affect Japan’s foreign policy abroad.

At present, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in conjunction with its coalition partner Komeito hold a two-thirds majority in the House of Representatives.

It would take a victory in the House of Councillors election, however, to allow them to change the constitution.

No amendments have been made to the Japanese constitution since it was made public on November 3rd 1946 and then put into effect on May 3rd 1947.

There are several stages to accomplish if that is to change and Article 9 is given an overhaul.

Any amendment to the constitution has to be put forward by the Diet and backed by two-thirds of the members in both houses of parliament.

It would then go to a referendum, allowing the Japanese people to have their say, with a simple majority needed for changes to be made.

Even achieving the first element of the process is difficult, meaning the LDP would likely need more than just its Komeito allies to get a two-thirds majority in the Upper House.

It is, therefore, crafting an amendment proposal to help persuade opposition parties to back the idea.

What this means in practice is that the LDP’s policies in the run-up to the Upper House election are likely to be vague, leaving space to negotiate with parties and bring them onside.

Revisions to Article 9 are likely to be proposed in stages with the least controversial ones being brought forth first.

These could include a clause giving strong powers to the prime minister in the event of a natural disaster or armed attack against Japan.

Alternatively, a somewhat meeker clause stating the population’s right to a favourable natural environment could be the first proposed amendment.

All of Japan’s parties have different focuses when it comes to the constitution and getting two-thirds in either house could be difficult.

Komeito, despite being in a coalition with the LDP, have a differing view to the ruling party.

It is open to the constitution being amended but wants its overall basic principles to remain the same as they have for nearly 70 years.

Whatever the outcome, it is clear that the content of Article 9, renouncing war and banning Japan from maintaining armed forces, with be hotly fought between the parties.