Remarks made by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in his video message unveiled on May 3 to the effect that he aims to revise the Constitution including its war-renouncing Article 9 and ensure the revision will come into force in 2020 have perplexed ruling coalition legislators.
There is no clear road map toward achieving the goal set by the prime minister. Attention has been focused on whether the prime minister's move will help speed up Diet discussions on constitutional revisions or make it more difficult for ruling and opposition parties to agree on the issue.
Shortly after the July 2016 House of Councillors election, Prime Minister Abe told an acquaintance who visited his office that he was aiming to add a third paragraph to Article 9 to specify the existence of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF). During the campaign period for the election, the prime minister had refrained from mentioning the constitutional issue. However, the prime minister had apparently been considering the timing of announcing his intentions since after the election.
So why did the prime minister declare his intention in the video message released on May 3? A senior ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) legislator, who had previously served as a Cabinet minister, said, "He appears to have lost his patience with the lack of progress in discussions at the commissions on the Constitution in both chambers of the Diet."
Debate on constitutional revisions has not been progressing at the House of Representatives Commission on the Constitution as the LDP had planned, due to the fallout from a conflict between the ruling and opposition parties in other Diet panels. The senior LDP legislator believes that the prime minister made the remarks with the aim of putting pressure on his own party prior to the resumption of discussions at the lower house commission on May 11 after deeming that the panel would never be able to narrow down clauses to be revised under current circumstances.
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