After deciding against a dual election, the next step for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will be constitutional reform, which he has aspired to do before the end of his term.
In order to propose a constitutional reform bill, a total of 78 seats are needed in the Upper House, including members of both parties of the ruling coalition, Initiatives from Osaka, and the Party for Japanese Kokoro. The ruling coalition wants to create the same conditions in the Upper House as in the Lower House, where the coalition holds over two thirds of the seats. This is also Abe’s last chance for aiming to achieve two thirds of the Upper House before his term expires in September 2018.
The prime minister’s final decision not to pursue a dual election can be partly attributed to the party’s fear of losing its two-thirds in the Lower House. Many feel it is unlikely that the prime minister will dissolve the Lower House unless he is convinced that the ruling party will achieve an overwhelming victory.
When it comes to discussions on constitutional revision, however, the ruling coalition has not made much progress. The Lower House Commission on the Constitution did not have even one meaningful deliberation on constitutional revision during the ordinary Diet session.
If Abe decided to hold a dual election and won a considerable victory, as Yasuhiro Nakasone did in 1986, he might become able to extend the term of his leadership for a year. With no one obviously destined to succeed Abe, there is a slight possibility he would remain in office until the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. On the other hand, the dispute surrounding the tax hike delay has created a slight schism inside the administration, leading some members to predict that support for the Abe administration is now at its peak.
A senior member of an LDP faction said: “The Diet might be dissolved at the beginning of the next ordinary session. That’s what you would think if you were a Diet member.” Despite this prediction, the prime minister remarked: “At this point I have no intention whatsoever to dissolve the Diet during my term of office.” (Abridged)