[JURIST] A special panel of the Japanese House of Representatives [official website] Thursday approved a bill authorizing a national referendum on revisions to the country's pacifist constitution [text]. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe [official website; BBC profile] initiated the bill [JURIST report], hoping it would become law before the current parliamentary session adjourns on June 23. Opposition Social Democrats voiced strong dissent in the panel discussions, even scuffling with ruling party members. The bill will be taken up on Friday before the full House, which has a conservative majority; if passed, it will then be presented to the House of Councillors [official website, in Japanese]. Each house requires a two-thirds approval. AFP has more.
The proposed revisions are particularly focused on Article 9 [text; Wikipedia backgrounder], which has been interpreted to bar Japan [JURIST news archive] from maintaining military forces and from using force in international conflicts except in self-defense. Some fear the article may potentially hinder Japan's ability to respond to crises [JURIST report]. A poll released last week by the daily Yomiuri Shimbun [media website, English version] newspaper showed that only 46 percent of Japanese now want to amend Japan's constitution, a drop of 9 percentage points since 2006.
4/13/07 – The full House of Representatives approved the legislation Friday. AP has more.