For Abe, victory comes with a caveat

By Chen Yang Source:Global Times Published: 2019/7/28 20:23:39

Photo: Xinhua

Japan's governing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), led by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and junior partner Komeito won a majority of the seats in election to the House of Councillors or the Upper House election, on July 21. According to The Nikkei, "Of the 124 seats that were contested, the ruling coalition secured 71, with Abe's LDP winning 57. That is enough to give the coalition a majority in the Upper House."

The election result reflects Japan's public mandate. The victory of the ruling party in the Upper House election indicates that Abe administration's policies are generally recognized by most Japanese. Meanwhile, voting for the ruling party shows the citizens' desire for stability.

According to the Japanese Constitution, members of the Upper House serve six-year terms and about half the seats are up for grabs every three years. This time, 124 of the 245 seats were up for grabs. After the election, the LDP holds 113 seats in the Upper House. That being said, even if the LDP has more than half the seats in the Upper House, it can be argued that the foundation of its support is not quite strong.

Moreover, the Upper House is not as important as the House of Representatives, or the Lower House, in Japan. When there is a disagreement between the Upper House and the Lower House, the country's Constitution "grants more power to the Lower House by giving its decision precedence," said The Mainichi.

Since Abe assumed office as prime minister for the second time in 2012, he has been committed to amending Japan's postwar pacifist Constitution. But securing more than half the seats in the Upper House is not enough. Japan's Constitution stipulates that a proposed amendment must be approved by a supermajority of two-thirds of the elected membership of each house. But this condition has not been met. 

Now Abe has only two years left in office and faces time constraints to amend the Constitution. Although the LDP, the Komeito, the Japan Innovation Party (JIP), the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP) and some individuals without party affiliation who are members of the National Diet support the revision of the Constitution, the specific plans of each party for the amendment are different. 

For example, the LDP advocates the revision of Article 9 of the Constitution, the JIP wants to reduce the members of the National Diet, and the CDP insists on limiting the rights of a prime minister to dissolve the Lower House. It means the game among different parties is complicated.

In addition, the attitude of the Japanese toward constitutional revision has not changed with Abe's long-term governance. According to a poll released by the NHK Broadcasting Culture Research Institute in April last year, only 29 percent of respondents think it is necessary for Japan to revise the Constitution. And any constitutional revision requires a national referendum. 

The Abe administration may be able to persuade members of the National Diet to support constitutional amendments through political promises and exchange of interests, etc. But it is obviously difficult to make the Japanese people to accept it.

The author is an editor at the Global Times and a Japan watcher.


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