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Abe govt to be tested in upper house election

Yomiuri Shimbun photos

Clockwise from top right: Shinzo Abe; Natsuo Yamaguchi; Kazuo Shii; Ichiro Matsui; Hajime Yoshikawa; Yuichiro Tamaki; and Yukio Edano

The Yomiuri ShimbunPrime Minister Shinzo Abe’s 6½-year-long administration will be put to the test in the House of Councillors election, with voting on July 21. Whether the Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner Komeito can maintain a majority of seats after this first national election of the Reiwa era will be the key question.

Ruling and opposition parties launched a 17-day verbal battle in the official campaign that started Thursday, focusing mainly on the future of the pension system and constitutional revisions.

A total of 370 people had filed their candidacies (215 for constituency seats and 155 for proportional representation seats) by the 5 p.m. deadline on Thursday.

In the last upper house election in 2016, there were 389 candidates (225 for constituency seats and 164 for proportional representation seats).

Half the seats in the upper house, whose members have six-year terms, are contested every three years. The revised Public Offices Election Law enacted in 2018 mandates adding a total of six seats to the upper house over two elections. Three of the seats will be added in this election.

The number of seats to be contested this time is 124 (74 constituency seats and 50 proportional representation seats), while the number of uncontested seats is 121 (73 constituency seats and 48 proportional representation seats).

The total number of seats in the house after the election will be 245 (147 constituency seats and 98 proportional representation seats), meaning a majority is 123.

One of the three added seats was given to the Saitama Prefecture constituency, while the other two are proportional representation seats.

A special quota will be introduced in the proportional representation segment for the first time whereby political parties or groups can help certain lawmakers get elected.

On Thursday morning, the leader from each political party made their first speeches after the kick-off of the official election campaign.

Abe, the LDP president, said in Fukushima city: “Tax revenue will increase under a vigorous economy. We’ll pour an increased portion of the fruits into social security.”

Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi said in Kobe, “We must stabilize politics to overcome the rough sea.”

Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan leader Yukio Edano said in Tokyo, “We have to recover an untroubled life that has been lost for 6½ years since the inauguration of the Abe administration.”

Democratic Party for the People leader Yuichiro Tamaki said in Kakegawa, Shizuoka Prefecture, “Let’s change our economic policies to bring a benevolent cycle based on consumption.”

Japanese Communist Party chair Kazuo Shii said in Tokyo, “Let’s hand down a ‘good-bye’ verdict on Abe politics and make Japan a peaceful place to live.”

Ichiro Matsui, leader of Nippon Ishin no Kai said in Osaka, “A consumption tax hike will force more burdens onto people.”

In place of ailing Social Democratic Party leader Seiji Mataichi, SDP Secretary General Hajime Yoshikawa held the microphone in Tokyo and said, “Preservation of the Constitution has been our party line. We want you to let us continue working in the Diet.”

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