Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cherished goal of revising Japan’s pacifist constitution has become more difficult to achieve after a plunge in his popularity and the erosion of public trust, a ruling party lawmaker said on Wednesday.
Support for Abe has plummeted to its lowest since he surged back to power in 2012 with a conservative agenda of reviving traditional values and loosening constraints on the military that centers on revising the U.S.-drafted post-war constitution.
In May, Abe made a surprise proposal to revise the charter’s war-renouncing Article 9 by 2020 to clarify the ambiguous status of its military, known as the Self-Defense Forces, by 2020.
Meeting that deadline would mean adopting an amendment in parliament next year, since pro-revision forces in the lower house are likely to lose their super-majority in an election that must be held by late 2018. Amendments need the approval of two-thirds of both chambers and a majority in a referendum. “There is no change in the goal toward which we are working but greater efforts are needed now to achieve that goal,” Hajime Funada, deputy head of a ruling Liberal Democratic Party task force on constitutional reform, told Reuters in an interview.
“Rather than a matter of ‘yes’ or ‘no’ toward revising Article 9 itself, trust and expectations toward Prime Minister Abe, who is advocating it, have fallen sharply,” Funada said, adding that the LDP’s junior coalition partner, the Komeito party, had also grown more cautious about amending the charter.
Amending Article 9, which renounces the right to wage war as a way to settle international disputes, is a divisive issue in Japan. Supporters of the article see it as the foundation of post-war democracy but many conservatives see it as a humiliation, imposed after defeat in World War Two.
Amending the article would also raise concern in China and South Korea, where bitter memories of the conflict run deep.—Agencies