International - POSTED: 2007/04/13 04:55
A special panel of the Japanese House of Representatives Thursday approved a bill authorizing a national referendum on revisions to the country's pacifist constitution. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe initiated the bill, hoping it would become law before the current parliamentary session adjourns on June 23. Opposition Social Democrats voiced strong dissent in the panel discussions, even scuffling with ruling party members. The bill will be taken up on Friday before the full House, which has a conservative majority; if passed, it will then be presented to the House of Councillors. Each house requires a two-thirds approval.
The proposed revisions are particularly focused on Article 9, which has been interpreted to bar Japan from maintaining military forces and from using force in international conflicts except in self-defense. Some fear the article may potentially hinder Japan's ability to respond to crises. A poll released last week by the daily Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper showed that only 46 percent of Japanese now want to amend Japan's constitution, a drop of 9 percentage points since 2006.