Forging agreement within Japan's diverse pro-revision camp on what to change, however, will be a struggle and getting a majority of voters to sign off in a referendum even tougher.
China’s official news agency said on Monday a win for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling bloc in upper house elections posed a danger to regional stability, with lawmakers who favour revising the pacifist constitution holding a “super majority”.
Commentaries by the Xinhua news agency are not formal government statements but often reflect official thinking in China, where memories of Japan’s past militarism still spark outrage.
Final counts showed Abe’s coalition and allies obtained two-thirds of the seats in the chamber which, with the ruling bloc’s super majority in the lower house, opens the door to revising the constitution for the first time since its adoption after Japan’s defeat in World War Two.
“With Japan’s pacifist constitution at serious stake and Abe’s power expanding, it is alarming both for Japan’s Asian neighbours, as well as for Japan itself, as Japan’s militarisation will serve to benefit neither side,” the Xinhua commentary said.
Forging agreement within Japan’s diverse pro-revision camp on what to change, however, will be a struggle and getting a majority of voters to sign off in a referendum even tougher.
“It’s the first time to have two-thirds in both houses of parliament, but you can’t find any issue on which the two-thirds can agree,” said Gerry Curtis, professor emeritus at New York’s Columbia University.
The constitution’s war-renouncing Article 9, if taken literally, bans the maintenance of armed forces. Successive governments have interpreted it to allow a military for self-defence, a concept that Abe last year stretched to allow Japan’s military to aid friendly nations that come under attack.
Revising Article 9 would likely be largely symbolic. Still, convincing the Komeito party, the more dovish junior partner in Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party-led coalition, to agree would be challenging. The pro-revision camp might well tackle another amendment first.
One possibility is a clause giving the government more power in a national emergency. That would also spark a divisive debate because critics say it would curtail civil rights.
Another option, floated by the Komeito, would be to add an environmental protection clause, a less contentious step that would nonetheless break the political taboo on revision.
It is unclear whether Abe’s conservative base would be satisfied. “Conservatives see the constitution as emasculating the nation,” said Jeffrey Kingston, director of Asian studies at Temple University in Tokyo.
“If I’m in his camp, I’m thinking, this may be my best shot.” (Reporting by Nathaniel Taplin and Linda Sieg; Editing by Eric Meijer and Paul Tait)