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Japanese Prime Minister Seeks Constitutional Amendment as Elections Approach

In a significant call in the run-up to the upcoming Japanese elections for the leadership of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, PM Shinzo Abe has urged his fellow partymen to move quicker  on the LDP’s push to revise and reform Japan’s constitution. The appeal comes in light of the elections due on the 20th, where PM Abe will hope to stave off a leadership challenge from Shigeru Ishiba.

The appeal to amend the over 70-year old Japanese constitution comes after years of tensions between Japan and North Korea. The latter has over the past few years tested several ballistic missiles in the area, several of which have often passed over the Japanese mainland. And although, the relationship between the two is thawing of late, difficulties remain. Japan is also apprehensive of Chinese actions in the South China Sea.

Shinzo Abe plans to revise the historically pacifist Japanese constitution in light of these tensions, especially Article 9. The stated article though literally suggesting a ban on the maintenance of armed forces, has been interpreted to allow for the maintenance of a force required for the nation’s self-defence. Any such amendment by PM Abe would lend legitimacy to the Japanese Self-Defence forces, as well as stir up the possibility of maintaining a larger force.

Although PM Abe has indicated that his party will submit a proposal for the amendment by the end of fall in the Diet (Japanese Parliament), the move to revise the constitution may be a risky move. Despite geopolitical tensions, the Japanese public is deeply divided on the issue and so are the LDP’s coalition partners. On the other hand, PM Abe has argued that the move would lend pride to the SDP and help them do their duty to Japan.

The leadership elections on the 20th of this month between Abe and Ishiba may just determine the future of Japan’s foreign policy as well as whether the country will continue expanding its armed forces.