Japan

LDP OKs draft to change Constitution’s article on election system

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The ruling Liberal Democratic Party made progress Friday in its discussions to seek the first-ever amendments to Japan's postwar Constitution, agreeing on the wording of a draft for rewriting an existing article on electoral systems.

The LDP is debating in turns four topics it has put on the table for possible constitutional amendments, including the war-renouncing Article 9. The latest plenary gathering focused on revising Article 47 to end some controversial electoral district boundaries introduced on the back of Japan's rural-urban population imbalance.

It is the first time that the LDP members have agreed on a specific draft amendment proposal for any article after deciding in June last year that its constitutional reform discussions would center on the four topics. The two other agendas are education and response to national emergency situations.

The LDP plans to come up with a set of amendment proposals by its annual convention on March 25, setting the stage for further discussions with other parties.

Amending the supreme law requires approval by two-thirds majorities in the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors, followed by majority support in a national referendum.

On Article 47, the LDP members approved a proposal that says "at least one person should be elected" in each prefectural district at every upper house election.

The change is aimed at ending a measure to group sparsely populated prefectures in single-seat electoral districts to address vote weight disparities stemming from population differences. The measure was introduced from an upper house election in 2016.

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Article 47 currently only states that electoral districts shall be fixed by law. The LDP proposal also includes wording indicating that population should not be the only criterion in drawing electoral districts for national elections.

But whether the proposal will win support from other parties is unclear, with some parties thinking the revision could go against efforts to address the disparity in the value of a vote.

Talks are still continuing inside the LDP over an Article 9 revision. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe proposed in May last year to add an explicit reference to the Self-Defense Forces, arguing that the change was intended to leave no room for arguments that an armed organization even for self-defense violates the pacifist charter.

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