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Abe's Victory and Constitutional Revision

Why It's Tough to Change Japan's Peace Clause

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and LDP lawmaker Shinjiro Koizumi at the Parliament building in Tokyo, September 2017. Kim Kyung-Hoon / REUTERS

On October 22, Japan’s electorate handed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe a major electoral victory in the Lower House. Despite initial fears that a resurgent opposition party—the Party of Hope—could outflank Abe from his right, his coalition secured enough seats to protect its two-thirds majority. Observers immediately began speculating about the impact of the vote on constitutional reform, specifically changes to Article 9’s so-called peace clause, which renounces war and the maintenance of “war potential.” Amending the constitution has long been an electoral plank of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), and Abe himself proposed doing just that in debates leading up to the vote. While it is true that parties in favor of revision secured enough seats to pass the legislative hurdle needed to revise Japan’s basic law, numerical advantage alone does not tell the whole story. Japan’s road to constitutional revision is much more complicated.

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