The ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito captured the Upper House election on July 21 in a landslide, securing that chamber and breaking the Diet gridlock that has plagued government for three years.
The LDP won 65 seats, while junior coalition partner New Komeito gained 11 seats. The two parties only needed to win at least 63 seats combined to gain a majority in the 242-seat Upper House and control both Diet chambers.
Appearing on TV late on July 21, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, "I believe we received the votes of those who wanted a political sector that could make decisions and that would push forward economic policies under a stable government."
He added that with the end of the Diet gridlock due to the successful Upper House election, the LDP would be tested on whether it could govern competently. The prime minister indicated that he wanted to take time for meaningful debate on constitutional revision, a divisive campaign issue.
"The Constitution cannot be amended without the approval of a majority of voters," Abe said. "There will be a need for a wider and deeper debate on the Constitution."
Regarding the contentious issue of visits to Yasukuni Shrine by his Cabinet ministers, Abe said, "It is only natural to express feelings of respect and mourning to those who fought on behalf of the nation. At the same time, there is the possibility of (visits to Yasukuni) itself developing into a diplomatic issue. I have no intention of saying now whether (I myself would) visit or not. I want my ministers to also make their own decisions based on their beliefs."
Visits to Yasukuni, which memoralize Japan's war dead along with 14 Class-A war criminals, have triggered strong criticism from China and South Korea in the past.
Although the LDP failed to gain the 72 seats that would have given it a clear majority by itself in the Upper House, it still had an impressive record in both the prefectural constituencies and the proportional representation constituency.
In the 31 single-seat prefectural constituencies, the LDP won 29 seats and only lost in two prefectures--Iwate and Okinawa.
The votes the LDP gathered in the proportional representation constituency approached the record number accumulated in the 2001 Upper House election when Junichiro Koizumi was prime minister.
Regarding the planned raising of the consumption tax rate from the current 5 percent to 8 percent next April, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on July 21, "We want to deal seriously with restoring the nation's fiscal health because that was in our platform. It will be important to confirm economic conditions (before a decision on raising the tax rate)."
Shigeru Ishiba, the LDP secretary-general, also said that economic policies should take precedence over any decision to change the current government constitutional interpretation that prohibits the exercise of the right of collective self-defense.
In contrast to the LDP, the opposition Democratic Party of Japan had another disastrous result similar to the December Lower House election, when it lost control of the government.
The DPJ won only 17 seats, the lowest number of seats in an Upper House election since its formation in 1998. A demonstration of the extent to which it lost support was seen in Tokyo and Osaka, where the DPJ failed to hold on to seats.
In contrast, the Japan Restoration Party picked up seats in the Osaka and Hyogo prefectural constituencies, but could not maintain the momentum in the proportional representation constituency that it had in the December Lower House election. It won a total of eight seats.
Also winning a total of eight seats each were Your Party and the Japanese Communist Party.
Your Party won seats in the prefectures of Miyagi, Saitama, Kanagawa and Aichi.
The JCP picked up seats in the Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto constituencies, the first time in 12 years the JCP has captured a seat in a prefectural constituency.
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