Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will announce the dissolution of the House of Representatives on Sept. 25. All parties are speeding up their preparations for an election for which the official campaigning will start on Oct. 10 and voting will take place on Oct. 22. Will Abe be able to regain his single-handed political dominance and gain momentum in his push for constitutional revision, or will the opposition be able to regain lost ground?
In this election, where the total number of seats being contested has been reduced by 10 to 465 (289 single-seat districts and 176 seats on the proportional representation tickets), the ruling and opposition parties will first have to fight for controlling a majority of 233 seats.
Abe, who is the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) president and who is aiming at promulgating a new constitution in 2020, will be very conscious of the number “310,” which is the number of seats needed to control a two-thirds majority in order to submit motions for constitutional revision to the Diet.
The ruling parties currently control a two-thirds majority in the Lower House. If they are still able to control a two-thirds majority after the election by adding the seats of the Nippon Ishin [Japan Innovation Party], which also favors constitutional revision, this will greatly boost the constitutional debate.
However, 310 seats is a formidable hurdle. While the cabinet support ratings, which had plunged seriously in light of the Moritomo Gakuen and Kake Gakuen affairs, have recovered recently, the LDP does not appear to be capable of winning a landslide victory like in the previous election.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga has stated that “there is a risk that we will lose a two-thirds majority in this election,” while certain LDP members are murmuring that “the point is to minimize the number of seats we lose.”
If the pro-constitutional revision forces fail to capture 310 seats, the LDP is eyeing co-opting the new party to be formed shortly by Lower House member Masaru Wakasa, a close ally of Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, former Environment Minister Goshi Hosono, and others. Koike stated at a news conference on Sept. 22: “There is certainly room for amending the constitution from various standpoints.” (Abridged)