Japan PM lacks political capital to change post-war constitution: Analyst

Voters cast their ballots at a polling location in Tokyo’s Minato District, Japan, on Sunday, July 10, 2022.

Three Hanai | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida does not seem to have the “political capital” to change the historic post -war constitution despite ensuring a decisive victory in the latest senate election, according to an analyst.

Kishida’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party won 63 seats, while its coalition partner, Komeito, grabbed 13 seats, to win a majority of the contested seats for Sunday’s polls, according to a Reuters report.

The elections took place in the shadow of the assassination of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was assassinated on Friday while in the course of the campaign – in an incident that shook the country where gun violence is so rare.

The widespread victory means that Kishida has enough control over both chambers to propose constitutional changes.

But the prime minister is unlikely to make any real moves on that front any time soon, said Tobias Harris, senior fellow for Asia at the Center for American Progress.

“Given the inflation environment, given you know that basically Kishida’s numbers – his approval rating falling over the course of the campaign – I mean it doesn’t matter for the election. But he won’t feel like he has that kind of political capital,” Harris said, on CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Tuesday.

“Let’s also not forget that he will use the rest of the year to make a major update of national security policy. We have had a big debate about the defense budget towards the next fiscal year,” he added. “We need to see where things look, maybe a year from now.”

Under Article 9 of Japan’s post -war constitution, the country promised to “forever renounce war” after it was defeated in World War II. Consequently, its defense force was not allowed to wage war other than to defend the country.

Public opinion

Recent public opinion surveys seem to suggest that the Japanese continue to shy away from pacifism in the wake of Russia’s war against Ukraine.

“There is still the question: ‘How can you get the opposition parties on board?’ The LDP has always made it clear that it is reluctant to do so, unless it can at least get every party to sign the process because the risks of appearing to steamroll the constitutional revision, could mean losing. you’re in the referendum, ”Harris said.

“But if you don’t win the referendum, you won’t get the revision. They want to make sure everything is right.”

In relation to the constitutional changes, Kishida told state media NHK hours after closing the polls for the Upper House election on Sunday, that he would look into developing draft changes that could be put to a nationwide referendum.

He also said that he will try to get the public’s understanding on the constitutional amendments.

“There’s really a supermajority out there in the parliamentary sense that has pushed for some constitutional changes,” Simon Baptist, global chief economist in the Economist Intelligence Unit, told CNBC on Tuesday.

Public support is “probably not there yet,” he said, adding: “We need to see some dialogue with the public and some kind of national process there.”

“However, a lot can be done by expanding the definition of self -defense, which has already been done,” Baptist added.

“I mean Abe has done a lot and I think the government will continue to do it using the war in Ukraine as an excuse to extend what Japan will do.”