Japan extends Parliament session

TOKYO - Japan's Parliament voted yesterday to extend its current session by more than three months, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe faces strong opposition over plans to extend the military's role in the officially pacifist nation.

The Lower House, led by Mr Abe's Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner, voted for a 95-day extension through late September.

The coalition has a sizeable majority in both chambers. "I want to discuss (reforms) thoroughly by extending the session as much as 95 days, taking substantial time," Mr Abe said.

Mr Abe, a robust nationalist, has pushed for what he calls a normalisation of Japan's military posture. He wants to loosen restrictions that have bound the Self-Defence Forces to a narrowly defensive role for decades.

But because he was unable to muster public support to amend the pacifist Constitution imposed by the United States after World War II, he opted to re-interpret it. He proposed legislation that would allow the military greater scope to act.

Opposition lawmakers have stepped up criticism after legal experts said legislation that would allow the military to fight in defence of allies was unconstitutional. Thousands of people rallied outside Parliament last week in protest over the plans.

The number of opponents against the legislation pushed by the government rose by 11.1 percentage points from a previous poll in May to 58.7 per cent, a nationwide survey released on Sunday showed. The telephone survey by Japan's Kyodo News also showed that 56.7 per cent of the respondents said the Bills are "unconstitutional", while only 29.2 per cent said the legislation is "constitutional".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, XINHUA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 23, 2015, with the headline 'Japan extends Parliament session'. Print Edition | Subscribe