Japan’s Voters Deliver Election Result That Could Enable Constitutional Change Long Sought by Slain PM

(CNSNews.com) – Japan’s ruling party – the party of assassinated former prime minister Shinzo Abe – won a supermajority in the upper house in election’s Sunday, a scale of victory that brings it closer to Abe’s long-held ambition to revise the country’s pacifist post-war constitution.

Held in the shadow of Abe’s shocking murder on Friday, the election for 125 of the 248 seats in the House of Councillors put the centrist Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its junior coalition partner Komeito on course to win at least 75 of the contested seats.

That would mean that forces in favor of amending the 1947 constitution will have control of more than two-thirds of the upper house. They already have a two-thirds majority in the lower House of Representatives. There is a high bar for constitutional amendments in Japan – the support of two-thirds of members of each House, plus ratification in a national referendum.

Drafted by the U.S. after the defeat of Imperial Japan in 1945, the constitution’s article nine renounces the use of force to settle international disputes.

Rescinding it would give Japanese governments greater freedom of action in a changing regional and global security environment, for example enabling Japan to join the defense of Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack.


The proposal is also a controversial one in the broader region, where memories of Japan’s history of aggression in the first half of last century run deep.

Abe, who served four terms as prime minister in 2006-2007 and 2012-2020, was unsuccessful in his aim to amend the constitution, although in 2015 he did oversee changes allowing a limited exercise of the right of collective self-defense.

Abe was shot by a gunman armed with a homemade firearm as he campaigned for the LDP in the city of Nara, in incident that shook a country which boasts strict gun laws and sent shockwaves around the world. The assassin claimed to have been motivated by hatred of a religious sect – reportedly the Unification Church – and said he believed Abe had links to it.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, already in southeast Asia, added a Tokyo stop to his itinerary Monday to offer condolences and meet with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

Japan has been a U.S. defense treaty ally since the 1950s but it was Abe’s vision of a “free and open Indo-Pacific” that gave rise in 2007 to what became known as the Quad, the regional security initiative drawing together Japan, the U.S., Australia, and India.

“We all talk about a free and open Indo-Pacific – that was his construct,” U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel told ABC “This Week” on Sunday. “So we are actually operating within the strategic outlook and architecture that he designed.”

“Second, he originated the concept of a Quad – the notion that India, the United States, Japan and Australia would all work together as a team. And two presidents now, of two parties, operate with that as almost as if it’s their own.”

In a joint statement of condolence President Biden, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese described Abe as “a transformative leader for Japan and for Japanese relations with each one of our countries,” who “worked tirelessly to advance a shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

Despite its strong showing in the election, the mood at LDP headquarters in Tokyo was somber. Party leaders dressed in dark attire held a moment of silence in memory of Abe, who had led the LDP and the country until his resignation for health in the fall of 2020.

“The election, which is the foundation of democracy, was challenged by violence and it carries a big meaning that the election was carried through,” Kyodo quoted Kishida as saying late on Sunday. “I will continue to work hard to protect democracy.”

Kishida pledged to move ahead with debate in parliament, to come up with a concrete proposal on amending the constitution.

Nine months into his job, Kishida now has a three-year window with no presidential or parliamentary elections to worry about. Apart from aspirations to amend the constitution, however, he faces major challenges in other areas, including rising energy and commodity prices.

The resource-poor country has been especially hard hit by surging prices of imported petroleum arising from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

At the G7, Kishida is a proponent of setting “price caps” on Russian fossil fuels, in a bid to prevent the Kremlin from profiting from price hikes due to its invasion. The proposal is now under consideration by the seven leading democratic economies.


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