Abe eyes electoral reform, constitutional amendment

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Tokyo, Feb 20 (INAS) Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Saturday said he was keen to see electoral reform legislation enacted during the current parliamentary session and reduce the number of seats in the lower house.

“I’d like to push for cutting the number of seats by 10 in the ongoing diet session to carry out my responsibility (over the electoral reform),” Xinhua quoted Abe as saying with reference to his planed passage of a revised Public Offices Election Law.

Abe eyes reducing the number of seats in parliament’s more powerful lower chamber by 10 to 465, as a means of combating vote disparities in some single-seat constituencies and, as part of the reforms, will see a rezoning of some electoral districts.

Vote disparities have historically plagued elections, including general elections, with some regional and higher courts finding some pertinent elections to have been held unconstitutionally.

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The envisioned reform will aim, however, to lessen the disparities between the most and least densely populated areas to below twofold.

Abe also said he would continue with his controversial plans to amend part of Article 9 of Japan’s pacifist constitution.

Article 9 prohibits Japan from maintaining an air, ground of sea force with war potential or from using violence as a means of settling an international dispute.

This key clause of Japan’s constitution has been in place since Japan lost World War II in 1945, and has seen Japan emerge as a pacifist nation over the past 70 years.

“The Self-Defence Forces should be recognised and stipulated in the supreme law,” Abe said.

Adding that amending the constitution has been a “long-cherished wish of the Liberal Democratic Party since its founding 60 years ago,” Abe said he would “not give up and to continue to take on this challenge.”

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To amend the constitution Abe will have to receive the backing of two-thirds of both chambers of the parliament and then gain a majority in a public referendum.

Last year Abe forced unconstitutional war bills through the parliament following his cabinet’s unilateral reinterpreting of the constitution.

Abe and his ruling bloc suffered a monumental public backlash, with hundreds of thousands taking to the streets daily to call for the upholding of Article 9 and for the prime minister to abandon his war plans.

Amending the constitutional, particularly Article 9, will allow Japan’s forces more autonomy and act like a bona fide military without borders — a scenario that scares Japanese as well as unsettles Japan’s immediate neighbours, who well remember the barbaric rule of the Imperial Japanese Army before and during WWII.

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As for the possibility of the premier dissolving the lower house and calling a double election this summer, Abe once again dismissed the notion.

“I’m absolutely not considering it,” the prime minister claimed.

As for a second hike in the consumption tax to 10 percent next April, he said it would go ahead as planned, despite recent market volatility, including Japan’s own economy contracting in the fourth quarter of last year as consumption and exports both slumped.

Abe said the recent volatility was distinct from the global crash of 2008, and unless a similar crisis was expected further tax hike would go ahead as planned.

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