Japan amends procedures for national referendum

By Riyaz ul Khaliq

ANKARA (AA) – Japan on Friday approved amendments in procedures for any national referendum, a move that may lead to revising the country’s constitution.

The bill, passed by the parliament – the Diet –, is “a step toward the possibility of a revision … [of Japan’s] war-renouncing constitution,” Kyodo News reported.

It took the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which is in favor of revising the constitution, three years to get the bill passed through parliament after extensive debates.

The party, under then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, along with its junior coalition partner Komeito and two smaller parties, had introduced the bill in June 2018.

Under the amendment procedures, the country can now revise its postwar constitution, which has remained untouched since it came into force in 1947.

Calls for both maintaining and amending the constitution’s “pacifist Article 9” have remained a focal point of discussions in Japan, the report said.

“Any proposed revision needs to be approved by a two-thirds majority in both the upper and lower houses before the proposal can be put to a national referendum,” read the report.

The new measures allow citizens to cast their ballots at places such as train stations and shopping complexes.

Japan’s main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party opposed the bill, “citing the need to restrict TV, radio and online commercials, as voting would be influenced by campaigners’ funds.”

The bill also grants more emergency powers to the government, an issue that was pushed to the fore due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Japan’s current laws do not allow the government to impose a “hard lockdown” even in the current situation, leaving authorities to mostly rely on cooperation with the public and businesses.