Abe seeks agreement among parties
Fresh from election win, Japanese Prime Minister not setting schedule for revision to Constitution
TOKYO Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, buoyed by a huge election win for lawmakers who favour revising Japan's post-war, pacifist Constitution, signalled a push towards his long-held goal yesterday but will need to convince a divided public to succeed.
Parties in favour of amending the US-drafted charter won nearly 80 per cent of the seats in Sunday's Lower House election, media counts showed. Four seats remain to be called and final figures were expected later yesterday.
That left the small, new Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ) as the biggest group opposed to Mr Abe's proposed changes.
Formed by liberal members of the Democratic Party, which imploded before the election and no longer exists in the Lower House, the CDPJ won 54 seats, a fraction of the ruling bloc's two-thirds majority in the 465-member chamber.
Mr Abe said he wanted to get other parties on board, including Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike's new conservative Party of Hope, and was not insisting on a target of changing the Constitution by 2020 that he had floated earlier this year.
"We won a two-thirds majority as the ruling bloc, but it is necessary to strive to form a wide-ranging agreement among the ruling bloc and opposition (to revise the Constitution)," Mr Abe told a news conference.
"And then we aim to win the understanding of the people, so that we can gain a majority in a referendum," he said.
He stopped short of claiming to have won a mandate for amending the Constitution in Sunday's election.
Amending the charter's pacifist Article 9 would be hugely symbolic for Japan. Supporters see it as the foundation of post-war democracy, but many conservatives view it as a humiliating imposition after Japan's defeat in 1945.
It would also be a victory for Mr Abe, whose conservative agenda of restoring traditional values, stressing obligations to the state over individual rights and loosening constraints on the military, centres on revising the Constitution.
"Mr Abe is trying to create a legacy. His first legacy project was to get the economy out of deflation," said Mr Jesper Koll, head of equities fund WisdomTree Japan.
"The second legacy is to change the Constitution," he said. "You can debate whether he has a mandate but what will make or break him... is the constitutional issue."
Any revision of the Constitution requires support from two-thirds of the members of both chambers of Parliament and a majority in a public referendum, with no minimum quorum.