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Japan’s parliament has voted a constitutional amendment to allow troops to fight abroad for the first time since the end of World War II 70 years ago.

The vote on the constitutional amendment was delayed for several hours as the opposition tried to stop the measure coming into law.

Outside, demonstrators rallied in a last-ditch show of protest.

Many Japanese are attached to the pacifist provisions in the constitution which banned fighting overseas.

The bills have already passed through the government-dominated lower house.

The Japanese government says that the changes in defense policy are vital to meet new military challenges such as those posed from a rising China.

It wanted to hold the vote before a five-day holiday begins on September 19. The governing coalition has a majority in both chambers of the Diet, meaning that ultimately the opposition camp was powerless to stop the measure becoming law.

Masaaki Yamazaki, the president of the upper house, said the bills were passed with 148 lawmakers voting in support and 90 against.

Photo AFP

Photo AFP

More than 200 hours have been spent deliberating the legislation, the Japan Times reported, and its approval by parliament fulfils one of PM Shinzo Abe’s long-held ambitions.

On September 17, opposition politicians tried to physically delay proceedings ahead of a committee vote on the bills.

The bills prompted large public protests for months.

The changes re-interpret rather than formally change the constitution.

However, critics say this will violate the pacifist constitution and could lead Japan into unnecessary US-led wars abroad.

Speaking in parliament on September 18, Akira Gunji, of the opposition Democratic party, said: “We should not allow such a dangerous government to continue like this.

“Prime Minister Abe’s security bill is a threat to our legal framework.”

Supporters of the measures, which are backed by Washington, insist they are essential for the defense of Japan and its regional allies, and will permit greater involvement in peacekeeping activities around the world.

Critics have focused on what they say is ambiguity in how the principles of the legislation will be interpreted, and the possibility that future governments will interpret them more broadly.

Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe has dissolved the lower house of parliament in preparation for an early election.

Shinzo Abe is seeking a new mandate for economic reforms and is delaying an unpopular increase in sales tax.

However, opinion polls conducted by local media indicate low support for Shinzo Abe and that many people do not understand why he has called an election two years ahead of schedule.

Japanese voters will now head to the polls on December 14.

The dissolution of parliament was announced in the lower house by Speaker Bunmei Ibuki on Friday morning.

Japan’s legislature, known as the National Diet, comprises the upper House of Councillors and the lower House of Representatives.

Shinzo Abe is expected to hold a news conference later.

On November 20, he said he would use the election campaign to clarify his government’s growth strategy, reported national broadcaster NHK.

Japan's PM Shinzo Abe has dissolved the lower house of parliament in preparation for an early election

Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe has dissolved the lower house of parliament in preparation for an early election

A Kyodo News agency survey on November 21 found that about 63% of people did not understand Shinzo Abe’s reasons for going to the polls early.

A separate survey by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper found that only 39% supported Shinzo Abe.

Though his popularity has fallen, Shinzo Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) are still expected to win the election because of the weakness of the opposition.

Shinzo Abe has said he will resign if his coalition – which holds the majority in the lower house – fails to win a simple majority.

He launched an ambitious economic plan, informally known as “Abenomics”, two years ago when he became prime minister.

Though Japan’s GDP growth initially saw a lift, the economy continued to slide and Japan entered a technical recession after Q3 2014.

It was exacerbated by a rise in sales tax in April, from 5% to 8%.

The increases were aimed at curbing Japan’s public debt which is the highest among developed nations, but instead scared Japanese consumers off spending.

A second increase, to 10%, was set for October 2015 but Shinzo Abe has said that will be delayed by at least 18 months.

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