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Abe Cabinet E-mail Magazine No.29 (May 17, 2007) ============================================================

"Hello, this is Shinzo Abe" -- Message from the Prime Minister
(Provisional Translation)

Prime Minister Shinzo AbeProfile Japanese

Passage of the National Referendum Bill

Hello, this is Shinzo Abe.

This past Monday, May 14, the Law on the Constitutional Amendment Procedure passed in the Diet.

Article 96 of the Constitution provides for the ratification of amendments to the Constitution through a referendum with "the affirmative vote of a majority of all votes cast" after the amendments have obtained a "concurring vote of two-thirds or more of all members of each House" in the Diet.

However, the specific procedure for conducting such a referendum had been left undecided for the past 60 years. With the adoption of such a procedure for the first time, it has now become possible for the people to take revision of the Constitution into their own hands.

I would like to express my respect to the Diet for conducting exhaustive deliberations on this matter and fulfilling the responsibilities of the legislative branch.

A constitution embodies the vision and ideals of a nation.

"We desire to occupy an honored place in an international society."

This ideal from the Preamble of the Constitution, which was born out of the ruins of war, forms the cornerstone of Japan's diplomacy, and it has been intricately tied to the nation's policy of actively contributing to the international community in the postwar era.

The fundamental principles of the Constitution, such as popular sovereignty, respect for basic human rights and pacifism, have played a significant role in securing the nation's peace and prosperity. These essential values embodied in the present Constitution will remain unchanged.

Meanwhile, the situation surrounding us has changed drastically over the past 60 years. New values such as environmental rights have emerged. The international community has also changed greatly; the Cold War has ended and we are now facing new threats, including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and international terrorism. Moreover, Japan has become the world's second-largest economic power, and our responsibilities within the international community have grown correspondingly large.

I wonder how many people still consider that it is acceptable for the Constitution to remain just as it was 60 years ago. I feel that there is an ever-mounting call emerging from the people for us to face up to the changes of the times, and that now is precisely the moment when we should be discussing the Constitution.

As Prime Minister, head of the administrative branch, and also as a politician, it is a given that I follow and respect the existing Constitution. At the same time, I firmly believe that the time has come for us to consider what role is suitable for Japan in the 21st century and to determine which new values Japan should protect.

At the beginning of this year, I stated my intention to seek revision of the Constitution during my tenure in the election campaign for the House of Councillors. With regard to that stance, I have heard criticisms to the effect that constitutional debate should not be politicized, or that we should avoid making the Constitution a point of contention because it is remote from the people's everyday lives.

I cannot understand these criticisms. An election campaign represents an important opportunity for politicians to explain their ideas to the people and to engage in discussions. In my view, one would be lacking in conviction if, when presented with the opportunity, one avoided debating the subject of the Constitution, for it touches on the national vision.

I have sought to amend the Constitution ever since I began my political career, and I made it clear that I would place constitutional revision on the political agenda when I took over as Prime Minister. In the future too, I will continue to explain my ideas on this issue sincerely, without attempting to conceal anything.

"It's not how Japan will be, but how we make Japan."
"There is no other way but to explore Japan's destiny for ourselves."

This is how former Prime Minister Hitoshi Ashida, who was involved in establishing the current Constitution, responded when asked by young people about what Japan's future would be.

The Constitution belongs to us. Taking the passage of the national referendum bill into law as a prime opportunity, I expect that the national debate about the future of this nation and of our Constitution will now proceed calmly, broadly and deeply in an environment of composure.

[What's New in Government Internet TV]

- Prime Minister's Week in Review (April 23 to May 6, 2007)

[What's up around the Prime Minister]

- Council for the Asian Gateway Initiative (May 16, 2007)
At the meeting, the Council compiled the Asian Gateway Initiative, which envisions Japan acting as a bridge between Asia and the world.

- Japan-Lao People's Democratic Republic Summit Meeting (May 14, 2007)
Prime Minister Abe held a meeting with Mr. Bouasone Bouphavanh, the Prime Minister of the Lao People's Democratic Republic.

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General Editor: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
Chief Editor: Special Advisor to the Prime Minister Hiroshige Seko
Publication: Cabinet Public Relations Office
1-6-1 Nagata-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8968, Japan

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