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New Japanese PM might tweek constitution

Dec. 18, 2012 at 12:11 AM   |   Comments

TOKYO, Dec. 18 (UPI) -- Japan's new prime minister -- for the second time -- could try to revise the war-renouncing Article 9 of the country's Constitution.

The alliance of the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito Party won a majority 325 seats in the 480-seat lower House that will see LDP chief Shinzo Abe become prime minister five years after resigning from office.

The LDP had ruled the country almost continuously from the party's establishment in 1955 to 2009 when it was ousted from power in the lower House of Representatives by the center-left Democratic Party of Japan.

This week the LDP flattened the DPJ led by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, reducing it to 57 seats, down from 230 before the election, a report by The Japan Times newspaper said.

Abe, who will be the second man to be prime minister twice since the World War II, is a conservative hawk who will lead a government strong enough to override vetoes in the upper house, the House of Councilors.

The DPJ defeat saw seven Cabinet ministers, including Education Minister Makiko Tanaka and Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura, lose their seats. Former Prime Minister Naoto Kan also lost his seat in Tokyo.

Noda said it is "most deplorable" that so many DPJ members lost their seats.

"I bear the biggest responsibility for the severe defeat," Noda said. "I will resign as the party president."

Abe said he was satisfied with the public's support but believed more needs to be done.

"I can say that our policies gained support but I can't say that we've recovered our trust," he said.

His resignation in September 2007 was greeted with dismay by Japanese media and analysts, a report by the BBC said at the time.

There was speculation that a deal was done between senior LDP members and leaders in opposition parties, the BBC report said.

Japan's government needed to get Parliament to give permission for the country's military to continue to provide logistical support to the U.S. military in Afghanistan. Abe's resignation could have been what sealed support from opposition parties, the BBC said.

The Japan Times report quoted Abe as saying, after his latest election victory, "I was nervous and under pressure (when I was prime minister). I achieved some results, but I could not continue more than one year. This time, I will create a steady government."

A report by the Kyodo News Agency said around 76 percent of the 454 winners in Sunday's general election "seek the revision of the war-renouncing Article 9 of Japan's pacifist Constitution."

Approval by those 343 in the House of Representatives would meet the requirement of a vote by at least two-thirds of the members of the 480-seat chamber to initiate amendments to the Constitution.

But a constitution-changing motion will need support by a similar portion of members of the upper house, Kyodo said.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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