Parties that want to eliminate the pacifist character of Japan’s Constitution achieve the necessary majority

The bloc of Japanese parties in favor of the reform of the Constitution to eliminate its pacifist character has achieved a clear victory in the by-elections to the Sangiin or House of Councillors, Japan’s Upper House held this Sunday, with which they have the two thirds needed to push for its modification. The elections were marked by the death two days ago of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, victim of an attack.

The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was the big winner of the elections after winning at least 63 of the 125 seats at stake, while its ally, the Komeito party, won another 12 seats, according to official results.

The conservative party Initiatives from Japan and the Democratic Party for the People also support the constitutional reform, with which the reformist bloc adds 82 seats in these elections and reaches 170 seats in the Sangiin, above the two thirds of the chamber (166 seats) necessary to promote a referendum for what would be the first reform of the Magna Carta currently in force, which dates back to 1947.

These four parties have openly proposed changing Article 9, which specifies the country’s renunciation of war as a foreign policy tool and thus renounces the sovereign right to belligerency. It thus enshrines at the constitutional level the renunciation of military forces with war capability, so that the armed forces are limited to the Japan Self-Defense Forces, which do not have offensive weapons such as nuclear weapons or ballistic missiles.

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“We will deepen the parliamentary debate on the Constitution so that a concrete proposal for reform can be compiled,” Kishida explained after the vote.

Initiatives from Japan leader Ichiro Matsui has called on the LDP to “set a timetable” for constitutional reform “that the late former Prime Minister Abe would have wanted to see.”

These results are also an endorsement for Kishida’s government just nine months after the last elections, since LDP and Komeito exceed the 55 seats needed to keep the majority in the House of Councilors.

The chamber is made up of 245 seats, of which 125 were at stake in an election that renews half of the chamber every three years, plus vacancies.

“The COVID-19 pandemic, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, rising prices,…. we believe that we must work to address these key issues and make an effort to revive the Japanese economy,” Kishida said after the election at an event at the party’s headquarters in Tokyo in which he did not miss a memory for Abe.

Another important fact: the collapse of the main opposition to Kishida, represented in the main Constitutional Democratic Party, which is left with 23 seats, more than 20 less than it had before the vote. “Our party’s approval rating remains low. We need to work on ourselves and regain our support,” said party leader Izumi Kenta, who has not considered resigning.

On the other hand, the emerging conservative Initiatives from Japan won at least 10 seats, compared to the previous six, while the Communist Party of Japan won three seats and the left-wing Reiwa Shinsengumi won one.

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The leader of Initiatives from Japan, Matsui Ichiro, despite his improvement in the results, has resigned as head of the formation. Ichiro explained that the results were not as good as expected against an “inordinately powerful” LDP. However, he criticized the “old” policies of Kishida’s party, proposals that “do not work in the current situation of Japan’s aging and shrinking population”, reports NHK.

Ichiro has stressed the need for reforms to achieve a “sustainable society” and called on the party’s deputies to stand up to the LDP.

Ichiro himself had announced before the election that he would retire from politics in April 2023, when his term as mayor of Osaka ends.

Turnout was boosted in an election held in the shadow of Abe’s assassination and exceeded 51 percent, more than two points higher than the last figure. All parties defended in unison the holding of elections despite the trauma the crime has represented. “Elections are the pillar of democracy and democracy must be defended,” Kishida said Friday.

“We cannot give in to violence and for this reason we will continue to fight the election campaign to the end. I hope the people of Japan will think about it and work hard to protect our democracy,” the prime minister said.

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