CRUCIAL VOTE: Ruling coalition on track to win majority in Upper House

July 18, 2013

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

The ruling coalition appears on course to win a majority in the July 21 Upper House election, while the largest opposition party is poised to suffer a big setback.

An Asahi Shimbun opinion poll, combined with analyses of its news gathering, found that the ruling Liberal Democratic Party will likely double its 34 seats up for grabs, while junior coalition partner New Komeito is expected to maintain its 10 seats contested.

The projections mean the two parties will secure a majority of the 242 seats in the chamber, given the 59 seats they control that are not in contention in this election.

The ruling coalition needs 63 seats to capture a majority, which would give it control of the two chambers of the Diet. The two parties already form a two-thirds majority in the more powerful Lower House.

If the LDP alone garners 72 seats this time, it will form a majority in the Upper House on its own.

But it remains to be seen if the LDP will reach that milestone, considering half of the respondents said they have not decided which candidates to vote for in electoral districts. Forty percent were undecided on which party to pick in the proportional representation segment.

The two figures are 10 percentage points higher than comparable numbers in the survey conducted before the 2010 Upper House election.

An Upper House election is held every three years, with half of the chamber's seats up for grabs.

The Asahi Shimbun conducted the nationwide telephone poll on July 16-17. Of those who took part, 46,406 people, or 58 percent, gave valid responses.

The LDP appears strong in most of the 31 single-seat districts across Japan. Only in Iwate and Okinawa prefectures do the LDP candidates trail their rivals, while in Yamagata Prefecture, the LDP candidate is fighting a neck-and-neck race.

The party could sweep the constituencies of two or more seats.

It is also expected to ride high in the proportional representation segment, likely garnering at least 20 seats, the number the party won in the 2001 Upper House election riding the tailwinds of popular Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

The Asahi Shimbun opinion poll showed a growing number of younger voters and voters in cities across the nation favor the LDP due to high expectations from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic policies, known as Abenomics.

The three primary components of Abenomics are structural reform, a massive fiscal stimulus and a more aggressive monetary policy by the Bank of Japan that resulted in making the nation's exports more competitive through a weaker yen.

Those policies boosted the standing of the LDP, which already had traditional support bases among voters in rural areas and senior citizens.

In an Asahi Shimbun survey conducted ahead of the 2001 Upper House election, less than half of voters in the 20 to 59 age group said they would vote for the ruling LDP.

The latest poll, however, found that 54 percent of voters in their 20s, 55 percent of voters in their 30s, and 52 percent of voters in their 40s plan to vote for the LDP.

By contrast, the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan, which was founded in 1998, is likely to see its 44 seats up for vote nearly halved to below the record low of 26 seats it garnered in the 2001 Upper House election.

The Japan Restoration Party, co-led by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, is faring better in Osaka, its support base, and neighboring Hyogo Prefecture. But it appears to be losing steam compared with its showing in the Lower House election in December and may capture just four seats under proportional representation.

Your Party finds itself in a similar situation, likely to garner only four seats or so in the proportional representation section. In the 2010 Upper House election, it won seven seats.

The Japanese Communist Party, which doubled its pre-election strength in last month’s Tokyo metropolitan assembly election, is expected to see the same thing happen in the upcoming election.

The JCP is poised to win seven seats together in the electoral districts and proportional representation section, more than double the three seats up for grabs.

The party of veteran politician Ichiro Ozawa, the People’s Life Party, and the Social Democratic Party appear to be in a good position to gain one seat, respectively, under proportional representation.

The Green Wind, a party founded by anti-nuclear lawmakers, may garner a seat in the race in Yamagata Prefecture.

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
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An 86-year-old evacuee from Minami-Soma in Fukushima Prefecture casts an absentee ballot at a polling center for the Upper House election in Tokyo’s Koto Ward on July 17. (Nobuhiro Shirai)

An 86-year-old evacuee from Minami-Soma in Fukushima Prefecture casts an absentee ballot at a polling center for the Upper House election in Tokyo’s Koto Ward on July 17. (Nobuhiro Shirai)

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  • An 86-year-old evacuee from Minami-Soma in Fukushima Prefecture casts an absentee ballot at a polling center for the Upper House election in Tokyo’s Koto Ward on July 17. (Nobuhiro Shirai)
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