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Japan: LDP Likely to Loosen Reins on Civil Servants
Source: http://the-japan-news.com/
Source Date: Tuesday, October 08, 2013
Country: Japan
Created: Oct 08, 2013

The Liberal Democratic Party will likely permit public servants to express their opinions about amendment of the Constitution before a national referendum is conducted on a proposed revision of the supreme law, party sources said.

The LDP policy would also allow civil servants to urge other people to vote for or against amendment of the nation’s top law prior to such a referendum.

The National Referendum Law stipulates that any citizen aged 18 or older is eligible to vote in a plebiscite on constitutional amendment. However, the ruling party’s tentative decision will not entail measures to lower the minimum voting age and the legally decreed adult age, both of which stand at 20 today. This means no change will be made in the age of eligibility to vote in elections or the legally defined adult age, according to the sources.

One pending issue is whether a national referendum on constitutional amendment could be preceded by a plebiscite aimed at hearing the opinions of the public regarding important matters presumably subject to such a revision. The LDP will continue to study the pros and cons of conducting such a preliminary vote, the sources said.

Senior members of the LDP’s Headquarters for the Promotion of Revision of the Constitution are expected to start full-fledged coordination of views with an eye to proposing a review of amendments to the referendum law and submitting a bill together with New Komeito to an extraordinary Diet session to be convened Oct. 15.

Government employees are not allowed to call for votes or engage in other electoral activities in national or local elections in in order to maintain their political neutrality.

The LDP is believed to have judged government employees should be allowed a certain measure of electoral freedom because a national referendum on constitutional amendment is important from the viewpoint of the exercise of popular sovereignty.

Because some members of the party do not think schoolteachers should be allowed to call for constitutional amendment or promote their opposition to the amendment at the workplace, the party is set to discuss exceptional cases.

Reviewing restrictions on government employees’ political activities is one of three issues that were found necessary to be discussed further in the supplement to the referendum law when the law was enacted in May 2007.

The other two are the review of lowering the minimum voting age for elections or the age of adulthood and the introduction of preliminary referendums.

The LDP, Komeito and Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) agreed to keep the minimum voting age for a national referendum at 18 for the time being and continue studying the idea of preliminary national referendums.

Komeito is expected to agree with the LDP on the matter of allowing government employees to express their opinions.

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