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LDP ally Komeito cautious about revising Article 9 of Constitution

Komeito party, the junior coalition partner of Prime Minister
Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party, took a cautious stance over
the LDP's proposal to revise the war-renouncing Article 9 of the
Constitution, according to its election platform released Thursday.

The LDP has vowed to aim for the first-ever amendment to the
pacifist Constitution based on sufficient debate, saying its talking
points will include the question of adding a specific mention of the
status of the Self-Defense Forces.

But Komeito, backed by major lay-Buddhist organization Soka
Gakkai, said in its campaign platform for the Oct. 22 lower house
election, "Many Japanese people do not regard the SDF as
unconstitutional."

The party's latest stance signals a retreat from its pledge in
the previous House of Representatives election in 2014. Komeito then
said it would "carefully consider" clearly mentioning the SDF's
existence in the Article 9, as part of a broad discussion to "add"
clauses reflecting new, necessary ideas to the supreme law.

Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi said, "The LDP hasn't reached a
consensus" on the issue of constitutional revision. "We will stick to
our basic policy of observing (the LDP's discussion) and not
intervening (in it)."

In May, Abe argued the status of the SDF should be added to
Article 9 to leave no room for scholars to call the organization
"unconstitutional" due to the lack of an explicit reference to it in
the supreme law.

Apart from constitutional amendment, Komeito gave top priority
to "alleviating the burden of education (costs)." The party vowed to
use a larger proportion of the extra revenue from the
2-percentage-point consumption tax hike scheduled for October 2019 on
education.

Specifically, Komeito pledged to make private high school
effectively free by 2019 for households with an annual income less
than 5.9 million yen ($52,000) It also promised to reduce university
education costs and make preschool education free for children aged 5
or younger.

As part of its efforts to support low-income elderly people,
Komeito vowed to further reduce the burden of nursing-care insurance
premium payments and introduce earlier than scheduled special
benefits dedicated to those with lower pensions.

Komeito also pledged to introduce a reduced tax rate on food and
other daily necessities when the consumption tax is raised.

In the field of energy, Komeito said it will aim to phase out
nuclear power generation by promoting renewables and efficiency in
thermal power generation.

The LDP coalition partner also called for the introduction of
the "Shining Monday" initiative to make Monday mornings an extension
of the weekend to combat the traditional Japanese practice of long
working hours. (Oct. 5)