Parliamentarian group to submit bill on procedures on constitutional
revision to next Diet session

A group of Dietmembers advocating constitutional revision is planning to
submit to the next Diet session in 2002 a bill that will define procedures
for a referendum as an initial step to adversely revise the Constitution.

In its general meeting on November 16, the parliamentarian group (headed
by Nakayama Taro, former foreign minister) approved two draft bills; one for
the referendum, and the other, an amendment to the Diet Law.

The group is composed of members of the ruling Liberal Democratic, Komei,
and New Conservative parties, and opposition Democratic Party of Japan and
the Liberal Party. A DPJ Dietmember takes the post of the group's secretary

Commenting on this, Akahata of November 16 said that the group's moves
will accelerate their scheme of constitutional revision to a more serious

By initiating works for constitutional revision with procedural matters,
they want to raise pro-constitutional revision sentiments among the public,
calculating that such an access will decrease the people's opposition to
their attempt, Akahata said.

The Constitution's Article 96 states, "Amendments to this Constitution
shall be initiated by the Diet, through a concurring vote of two-thirds or
more of all the members of each House and shall thereupon be submitted to
the people for ratification, which shall require the affirmative vote of a
majority of all votes cast thereon, at a special referendum or at such
election as the Diet shall specify."

The Diet has defined nothing in detail on procedures for constitutional
revision, including the ballot system on the referendum.

As prerequisites for Dietmembers to submit a draft bill for a constitutional
amendment, the group's draft bill says that at least one hundred House of
Representatives members and fifty House of Councilors members must support

Instead of the current provision that the referendum is effective when
approved by a majority of all eligible voters, the group proposes that it
shall be effective with over a half of all valid ballots.

The group of Dietmembers who aim to revise the Constitution was organized
in May 1997 to establish their footing in the Diet, as "the parliamentarian
group to establish constitutional research committees in the Diet," and
following their completion in both houses it was renamed to "the
parliamentarian league to promote constitutional research."

Since 2000, drafts for constitutional revision have been issued by the
LDP and an LDP fraction. In particular, the bulldozing of the Self-Defense
Forces dispatch law through the Diet in October encouraged these attempts.