Despite the supermajority win of the ruling coalition, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed cautious optimism about proceeding with his long-held goal of revising the pacifist Constitution.

Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party and junior coalition partner Komeito gained a total of 313 seats in the Oct. 22 Lower House election, more than the 310 that make up a two-thirds majority needed to initiate a constitutional amendment.

“Although the ruling coalition gained more than two-thirds of the seats, there is a need to create a wide-ranging consensus that goes beyond just the ruling parties,” Abe said at an Oct. 23 news conference. “We will make the effort to obtain the majority in a national referendum (needed to pass an amendment).”

The LDP’s campaign platform for the first time included four proposed constitutional amendments, such as clearly defining the existence of the Self-Defense Forces in Article 9.

“We will deepen discussions within the party about the proposed amendments and submit a proposal from the LDP to the Constitution commissions of the Diet,” Abe said.

The prime minister at one time said he wanted a revised Constitution to take effect in 2020, when Tokyo hosts the Summer Olympics and Paralympics. But he toned down the need for a strict timetable at the news conference, saying discussions should not be bound by any predetermined schedule.

Komeito leaders had insisted on the need for wide-ranging discussions before any move was made to amend the Constitution.

Particularly cautious about amending war-renouncing Article 9, Komeito officials had argued that including the leading opposition party in discussions on constitutional revision would be important.

If Kibo no To (Hope) had emerged as the leading opposition party, Abe would have had an easier time pushing forward discussions on constitutional revision. Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, the Hope party leader, has long been in favor of amending the Constitution.

But instead, the newly formed Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP) ended up with 55 seats, making it the second largest party in the Lower House.

The CDP’s success in the election was an unexpected development for Abe in his plan to amend the Constitution. During the campaign, the liberal-leaning party clearly came out against Abe’s proposal to add wording to Article 9 to define the existence of the SDF.

Asked how he would approach the CDP, Abe said he would make every effort to form a consensus, but he also indicated he would not bend to any demands made by the CDP.

“Since this is a political matter, it will not likely be possible to obtain the understanding of every party,” Abe said.

That statement leaves open the possibility that the LDP could initiate an amendment without a unanimous agreement.

Still, Abe’s call for wide-ranging discussions is an acknowledgement that the support ratings for his Cabinet are about the same as the nonsupport ratings, according to surveys by The Asahi Shimbun.

The lack of wide popularity could make it difficult for Abe to gain a majority in a national referendum for a constitutional amendment.

Komeito officials also took other steps to ensure that the prime minister does not push forward too quickly.

To continue their coalition, Komeito and the LDP signed an agreement on Oct. 23 that included wording to “promote discussions in the Constitution commissions of the two Diet chambers to deepen discussions among the public and make every effort to obtain a consensus.”

LDP officials initially proposed a document that said the coalition would seek constitutional revision. In the end, they bent to the requests of their Komeito counterparts and settled for wording that said efforts would be made to obtain a consensus.