Photo/IllutrationPrime Minister Shinzo Abe responds to questions at a news conference on Sept. 11 after reshuffling his Cabinet. (Pool)

With his new Cabinet formed, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called on the ruling Liberal Democratic Party to join his all-out effort to reach his long-standing goal of revising the postwar Constitution.

“As the leading party in both houses of the Diet, the LDP should, in the future, demonstrate strong leadership in the Constitution commissions (of the Diet) in order to draft an amendment proposal,” Abe said at news conference on Sept. 11 after reshuffling his Cabinet.

At an earlier meeting of LDP executives, Abe asked that they all “work together as one to strongly push forward” efforts to revise the Constitution.

However, Abe’s strong enthusiasm for constitutional revision could lead to nothing if he cannot bring the opposition bloc to the negotiating table. In addition, the public does not share Abe’s enthusiasm for introducing the first revisions to the pacifist Constitution.

Abe last year named key ideological allies to the LDP executive lineup to push forward discussions on constitutional revision.

However, that move only stiffened resistance from the opposition parties, and very little in the way of real debate took place in the Diet.

Top party executives had not played a central role in promoting discussions on the Constitution in the past.

Abe’s latest requests for cooperation from LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai and Fumio Kishida, the party’s policy chief, reflect the prime minister’s desire to use their experience and network of ties with other parties.

Sources said that when Abe asked Nikai and Kishida to remain in their posts, he also asked for their help in working toward revising the Constitution.

Kishida is considered a dove among LDP lawmakers, but Nikai has developed his own ties to counterparts in the opposition. Those two LDP executives could improve the party’s chances of bringing opposition parties to the Diet to discuss changes to the Constitution.

At his Sept. 11 news conference, Abe said the Constitution commissions in the two Diet chambers should begin discussions to respond to the expectations of the public.

In the campaign for the July Upper House election, Abe repeatedly criticized the opposition parties for not even entering debate on the issue. He told voters that the election was a clear choice between candidates willing to push forward talks on the Constitution and those who did not want to discuss the topic.

In the election, the parties pushing constitutional revision, such as the ruling coalition and the opposition Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party), failed to gain the two-thirds majority needed in the Upper House to initiate a constitutional amendment.

Resistance among the opposition parties, including the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP), the leading opposition party, has strengthened.

CDP Secretary-General Tetsuro Fukuyama said Abe could not push forward constitutional revision “because the public does not want it.”

Given the current numbers in the Upper House, the opposition parties may not even enter talks regarding procedural matters, such as revising the national referendum law.

The terms of Lower House members expire in October 2021, so the ruling and opposition parties will likely intensify their confrontation over the Constitution and other issues as they jockey for position ahead of the next Lower House election.

An associate of Abe said constitutional revision will always remain the main banner for the prime minister.

“He will never give up,” the aide said.