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Constitutional reform talks in Japan slide to 2019

Opposition parties balk at convening a key panel

Opposition lawmakers sat out a meeting of Japan's lower house constitutional commission last week. (Photo by Uichiro Kasai)

TOKYO -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling party looks certain to miss the last chance this year to start debate on revising the country's constitution as opposition parties refuse to get on board.

Officials of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and coalition partner Komeito conceded Wednesday to opposition requests to shelve a Thursday meeting of a constitutional commission in the lower house of parliament.

The LDP aimed to present its proposed changes Thursday. But six opposition parties including the Constitutional Democratic Party have pushed back strongly against convening the panel.

The meeting was the last one scheduled for the panel during the extraordinary parliamentary session ending Monday. Ruling and opposition party officials also decided Tuesday to put off the last meeting of this Diet session for the constitutional panel's upper house counterpart, scheduled for Wednesday.

Barring an extension, the LDP has little chance to present its changes before the session ends.

The LDP is expected to explore a more opportune time to present its proposed changes during next year's ordinary session.

Abe pledged to bring the matter of constitutional reform, his long-held goal, to the floor of the legislature quickly after winning re-election as LDP chief in September. The party drafted changes in March on matters such as clarifying the status of Japan's Self-Defense Forces and making child care free.

Opposition members objected strongly when the lower house constitutional commission was convened Nov. 29 for the first time in the current session on the authority of the LDP's Eisuke Mori, who chairs the commission. They sat out the meeting in protest.

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