[JURIST] Japan's House of Councillors [official website, in English], the upper house of the National Diet, approved legislation [JURIST report] Monday establishing procedures to facilitate a national constitutional referendum. The legislation requires a three-year public consultation period before parliament can vote on possible constitutional amendments, which must be approved by both houses of the National Diet by a two-thirds vote before proceeding to a national referendum. The legislation also sets a threshold of a simple majority for the popular vote approving constitutional amendments, and lowers the voting age from 20 to 18.
Earlier this month, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe [official website; BBC profile] repeated his call [JURIST report] for reforming the Japanese constitution [text], saying the pacifist constitution "needs to be revised as its basic framework can no longer proceed with major changes in the administration system, relations between central and local governments, and foreign and security policies." Efforts to reform the constitution 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]. AP has more. Bloomberg has additional coverage.