PREVIEW - Japanese Voters To Elect Upper House Members On Sunday


PREVIEW - Japanese Voters to Elect Upper House Members on Sunday

MOSCOW (UrduPoint News / Sputnik - 21st July, 2019) Japanese voters will cast their ballots for 124 of the 245 seats in the country's upper house, the House of Councilors, on Sunday with the ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and Komeito party projected to ensure a solid victory.

According to a poll by the Nikkei newspaper, Shinzo Abe's LDP and its coalition partner Komeito are projected to secure together 63 seats out of 124, and therefore will maintain the majority in the upper chamber.

Similarly, the latest poll by the Kyodo news agency carried out on July 14-16 showed that popular support for the LDP stood at 33.8 percent and for Komeito - at 5.1 percent, while the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party ranked second with 9.1 percent and other parties having less than 5 percent. Yet, nearly 30 percent of respondents said that they do not have any party they support, which still change the situation.

Nevertheless, Abe's coalition appears to be on track to secure a win in the elections due to the lack of any serious opponents, Purnendra Jain, a professor in the Department of Asian Studies at the University of Adelaide, noted in his comments to Sputnik.

"Abe's opponents are extremely weak and there is no immediate political challenge to his party and to his leadership," Jain said.

The expert stressed Abe's success in assuring voters of having firm hand in foreign policy - not only with the nation's main ally, the United States, but also with North Korea on the abduction issue, South Korea on trade spat and war-time grievances, and Russia on the territorial dispute.

"Japanese voters cannot see any alternative to the LDP and to Abe at this stage," Jain said.

Professor Jeffrey Kingston, the director of Asian Studies at the Temple University, Japan Campus, also pointed out that Abe's main trump card was not his qualities or policies, but rather a lack of alternative among the opposition parties.

"There is great apathy about this upper house election ... Turnout will be low," he suggested in his comments to Sputnik, noting that it would only benefit the LDP.

Despite the apathy toward the upcoming vote, it might enable Abe to move forward with his long-held ambition to revise Japan's post-war pacifist constitution that bans country from maintaining an army and participating in overseas military operations. To do so he has to ensure a two-thirds majority of parties supporting the constitutional amendment. Yet, even this might not be enough for Abe to go through with his plan, Jain noted.

"If it is passed in both houses, the key would be whether Japanese voters are ready to endorse it in a national referendum. The signs are mixed," the expert said.

Abe's ambitious goal to turn Japan into a "normal country," as pro-amendment supporters put it, might be even challenged even with the prime minister's coalition, Kingston suggested.

"Almost nobody prioritizes constitutional revision - even the leader of Komeito, the main coalition partner, says it's not necessary, so Abe will have an uphill struggle. Even those who support say they don't want it to happen under Abe ... Major trust deficit," he stressed.

Yet, according to Professor Jain of the University of Adelaide, the victory itself would be an important mandate for Abe to continue his policies, taking into account that he himself and his entourage had been mired in a string of scandals recently.

"This is the first national election in the Reiwa era. A win by the LDP would endorse confidence in the party and Abe as its Prime Minister. Since Abe has been under criticism for his handling of the Moritomo Gakuen scandal, pension funds and increasing the consumption tax from 8 percent to 10 percent from October, victory of the LDP will give Abe some political space to move ahead with his reform agenda, including opening up the economy and Japan's doors to more foreign workers and immigrants," the expert stressed.

In the past couple of years, Abe's government faced major public discontent over cronyism scandals. It was alleged that Abe along with his wife and Finance Minister Taro Aso were involved in manipulating the sales of public land for the Moritomo Gakuen private school at artificially lowered prices, while the Japanese prime minister was also believed to give preferential treatment to the Kake Gakuen veterinary school project linked to his close friend Kotaro Kake.

Furthermore, Abe's government has been at the center of a scandal over the disclosure of activity logs of Japanese troops in Iraq between 2003 and 2009, the existence of which had earlier been denied by the Japanese Defense Ministry. Japan's Defense Minister Tomomi Inada subsequently resigned over the scandal.

Abe did not only manage to secure a majority in a snap vote to the lower chamber in 2017 immediately after the scandals erupted, but also get reelected as the LDP president for the third term in September last year, therefore retaining his position as the country's prime minister.

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