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Diet election - 21 July 2013

Media projections on 21 July 2013 showed the LDP and New Komeito winning more than 70 of the 121 seats up for grabs in the 242-seat upper house. Half of House of Councilors [the upper chamber] 242 seats were up for election every three years. The Democratic Party of Japan 44 held seats and fielded 55 candidates, but exit polls by major media groups showed that it would not win even 20 seats — a record low for the party. The DPJ retained an additional 42 seats in the chamber that will not be contested until the next Upper House election in 2016. Securing a comfortable majority requires Abe’s LDP and its junior coalition partner, New Komeito, to obtain a total of 129 seats, including the 59 seats already held that are not being contested. Opinion polls by domestic media had indicated the ruling bloc wass almost certain to gain a majority, putting an end to the divided Diet that had stymied legislation since 2007.

Although changes to the Constitution, including a revision of the war-renouncing Article 9, would greatly alter the shape of the nation, the issue did not get much attention from voters. The ruling coalition fielded 99 candidates by the time election offices stopped accepting registrations. If all those running on the LDP and New Komeito tickets were elected and joined the ruling camp’s 58 seats in the chamber that were not beingn contested, the total would come to 157 seats. A total of at least 162 seats would be needed for the two-thirds majority needed to amend the constitution. Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), the third-largest opposition party, was once considered a potential ally that might help Abe rewrite the Constitution. But the party’s popularity plunged. In the weeks before the election, predictions were that the LDP would win 57 to 66 seats and New Komeito around 10, for a total of 125 to 134 seats. Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), co-headed by former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, seemed likely to gain around six seats.

Abe said after the polls closed 21 July 2013 that he will gradually start discussions on amending the Constitution. “We need a majority in both Diet chambers to revise” Article 96, Abe said. “Since we were granted political stability, we will calmly deepen the debate.” Abe needed the cooperation of the opposition camp, namely Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and Your Party, because New Komeito, which is backed by the pacifist Buddhist lay group Soka Gakkai, opposes his quest to revise Article 96 because this would make it easier for him and the LDP to amend the war-renouncing Article 9. Your Party dropped its support for revising the article just before the campaign kicked off, saying there are other priorities. DPJ lawmakers such as former Prime Minister Yoshihiko have views are very similar to the LDP’s, especially on the Constitution and on collective self-defense. Abe may try to split the DPJ by bringing the constitutional revision to the table.

The ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and its junior partner, New Komeito, decided not to extend the Diet session, which meant the Upper House election would be held on 21 July 2013. They concluded that it was unnecessary to keep the Diet open beyond the session’s closing date of 26 June 2013. The Upper House was controlled by the opposition camp. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe indicated 30 May 2015 that he was disinclined to dissolve the House of Representatives and call a snap election to coincide with the triennial House of Councilors poll. The prime minister was seeking the combined two-thirds majority in both Diet chambers needed to propose an amendment to the Constitution.

Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party believes that the current Constitution was created under the heavy influence of the U.S. Occupation and it is no longer sufficient to “protect the people, territory and sovereignty.” Among many constitutional amendment plans, the ruling party aims to revise the war-renouncing Article 9 to enable the Self-Defense Forces to become a full military. The Constitution has not been amended since it was enetered into force in 1947. Abe’s LDP can rely on the support of the Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and other political groups to achieve the two-thirds majority in the more powerful Lower House. According to an 03 May 2013 Nihon Keizai Shimbun newspaper/TV Tokyo poll, only 28 percent of respondents objected to constitutional amendments – the lowest level of opposition in the eight years of the poll. However, among the 56 percent supporting amendments, only 30 percent favored changing Article 9 of the Constitution, which renounces war as a sovereign right.

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Page last modified: 26-06-2016 20:21:27 ZULU