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Japan Politics - Election 2019

The House of Councillors election took place 21 July 2019. The National Diet is composed of two Houses: the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors. The bicameral system means that, although each House independently deliberates and decides on their positions on individual bills, the will of the Diet is established when both Houses agree.

Today, the House of Representatives has 475 Members of whom 180 are elected under the proportional representation system and 295 are elected from single-seat constituencies. The term of office of Members of the House of Representatives is 4 years. In contrast, the House of Councillors has 242 Members, of whom 96 are elected by the proportional representation system and 146 from the 47 prefectural constituencies.

The term of office of Members of the House of Councillors is 6 years, half of the Members being elected every 3 years to assure continuity and stability. The upper house cannot be dissolved. The prime minister cannot dissolve it before the six-year term is over, unlike the situation with the lower house, when he can call an election whenever he likes. So members of the upper house always serve their full six-year term. Candidates are required to be 30 years of age.

A group is a group of lawmakers who wish to work together in the House and can form a group with two or more members. The factions are usually composed of members belonging to the same political party, but there are cases in which lawmakers who do not belong to political parties form a faction, or multiple parties constitute one faction. Committee members / directors, assignment of question and time, etc. will be allocated to each faction in proportion to the number of members of the faction belonging.

In general, political parties refer to the organizations that people with the same opinion about politics form to realize their opinions. The political party reflects various opinions and interests of the people in politics and plays a role as a pipe connecting the people to the Diet and the government. In addition, the "political party grant law" etc. stipulate the conditions of "political parties" to the extent necessary, and five or more members of the National Assembly, two or more hundredths of the total number of valid votes cast in the general election or regular election There is a requirement such as getting.

In July 2016, the party of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe consolidated its power by winning the Senate elections by a large margin. With several prime-ministerial hopefuls waiting in the wings, party lawmakers who are uneasy about their representation ahead of the 2019 Diet House of Councillors election will fight to elevate new leaders who can more effectively address economic revitalisation, strengthen Japan’s alliances with the United States and in Asia and neutralise external threats from North Korea and China.

The abdication of the Heisei emperor and ascension of Crown Prince Naruhito scheduled for Golden Week 2019 is a major event. This is the first abdication since Emperor Kokaku in 1817 and will usher in the first era change since 1989. The event will invariably influence the legislative agenda for the ordinary session of the Diet, Abe’s personal schedule and priorities for spring 2019, and public opinion ahead of the House of Councillors election in the summer. It could even potentially impact on the possibility of a bid for constitutional amendment should Emperor Akihito decide to express any disapproval of it following his abdication.

Half of the seats will be up for grabs, as well as three of the six additional seats recently added in the latest Diet reform passed in 2018. The Abe administration will be seeking to increase the majority it holds (51 percent of the house; 62 percent including Komeito). The goal is a supermajority (over two-thirds) for the ruling coalition, but they will see strong challenge from the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, the center-left party that emerged from the DP-Party of Hope debacle in October 2017.

The next election for the House of Representatives is in October 2021 (after snap elections were called by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2017). Once Abe passes August 2020, he will have presided over the Tokyo Olympics and earned the title of longest consecutively serving prime minister in Japanese history. For Abe, any remaining time could easily be traded away for achievement of other policy agenda items; such as selecting his own successor or pushing through constitutional amendment.

Political campaigning seems to be non-stop in Japan. Local elections wrapped up across the country in April 2019, and voters are due to head to the polls again to elect members of the Upper House of the Diet this summer. But an early Lower House election could also be in the works. Speculation had been rife among lawmakers that Prime Minister Abe will dissolve the Lower House for a simultaneous election this summer with the upper chamber.

Lower House lawmakers still had two years remaining in their term, but they know that Abe has yet to fulfill some of his major policy goals and needs to strengthen his hold to do that. The policies include revising a controversial clause in the constitution, concluding a peace treaty with Russia, and resolving the issue of North Korean abductions of Japanese citizens. A Lower House win this summer may extend his term as prime minister.

Supporting this view of events is the Abe Cabinet's steady approval rating. The latest NHK poll showed it rose one point in April, to 48 percent, with the disapproval rating falling three points, to 32 percent. Some LDP lawmakers said those solid figures could prompt Abe to call an early election.

Meanwhile, opposition lawmakers worry that Abe would catch them off guard, seeing that they were ill-prepared for an election. Uncertainty about the economy is fueling this worry. A key gauge of business conditions released this week suggests that the economy is worsening. In response, Akira Nagatsuma, deputy president of the largest opposition Constitutional Democratic Party (CDP), said that his party needed to fully prepare for elections. He said that Abe might again postpone the expected consumption tax hike and call an election.

Abe fought two elections after making the same decision previously. They were the Lower House election of 2014 and the Upper House election of 2016. Furthermore, he called the Lower House election of 2017 after promising that 2 trillion yen, or 18.2 billion dollars' in revenue from the tax hike would go toward making preschool education free for children aged 3 to 5. Clearly, the tax hike had been a big issue in recent elections.

A simultaneous election of both houses had only been held twice before, both times in the1980s, so few lawmakers had experience of it. The LDP's junior coalition partner, Komeito, is cautious about double elections. Komeito Secretary-General, Tetsuo Saito, has said that nobody knows what will happen in an election, and that they could lose it.

The latest NHK poll also asked people what they thought about simultaneous election of both houses. Supporters and opponents were evenly split with around 20 percent each. Half the respondents said they were neither for, nor against. Meanwhile, 40 percent said they ‘disagree’ with a consumption tax hike to 10 percent, while those in agreement or undecided were each less than 30 percent.

The official campaign for Japan’s Upper House election kicked off on July 4th ahead of the July 21st vote. 124 seats, or about half of the house, are up for grabs. Candidates vied for 124 seats in this election, 50 of which will be assigned via proportional representation. This election could prove to be a referendum on key government policies, such as the consumption tax hike. Three hundred and seventy candidates are running for 124 seats in the election. An NHK opinion poll shows that social security and the consumption tax are among the voters' top concerns. In June, the Diet debated a controversial report that said people will need 20 million yen, around $185,000, in savings when they retire to make up for revenue shortfalls. The government refused to accept the findings. Opposition members said that response was just an attempt to cover up an inconvenient truth.

Consumption tax is also an important issue. The ruling bloc planned to raise the rate from eight percent to ten in October, arguing that the revenue is necessary to bolster the social security system and for fiscal consolidation. Opposition parties say the tax hike could dent household consumption and hurt the economy. They want to address income inequality and raise taxes on corporations and high-income households, or implement administrative reforms.

The ruling bloc says it's all about stability as it looks to press on with implementing its policies. The Liberal Democratic Party and ruling coalition partner Komeito are talking about how tax revenue has been increasing, and employment numbers are improving. The opposition's argument is that the Abe administration has been in power too long and has grown complacent and arrogant.

There was division of opinion over Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's long-held aim of amending the constitution. The poll found 27 percent in favor of it, 30 percent against it, and 33 percent who couldn’t say either way. Abe wants a new provision codifying the constitutional status of the Self-Defense Forces. Komeito is calling for cautious debate of the proposal. Most opposition parties are firmly against Abe's idea. . To call a national referendum on constitutional amendment, the Prime Minister needs to control two-thirds of the legislature. He has the numbers in the lower house. The question is: will there still be enough coalition seats and other pro-amendment forces in the upper house after the election?

The voter turnout rate was low, around 48 percent. That's the second lowest in the history of Upper House elections. Japan's ruling coalition appeared set to maintain control of the Upper House following Sunday's election. But it looked like it fell short of maintaining a key threshold. After winning a record number of seats in the 2013 Upper House election, the Liberal Democratic Party was not able to match that tally. The ruling coalition was also unable to maintain two-thirds of the chamber. And that meant Abe would have a harder time moving forward with his goal of amending the Constitution. Now, in terms of the opposition, the largest Constitutional Democratic Party had made major gains. It had roughly doubled the number of seats it held before the election. But at the end of the day, the ruling coalition had been able to maintain its majority.

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Page last modified: 04-09-2019 19:14:46 ZULU