Tokyo Shimbun’s forecast on the final phase of the campaign for the House of Representatives election on Oct. 22 shows that the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and other forces in favor of constitutional revision are highly likely to win over two-thirds (310 ) of the total 465 seats. There is now growing interest in the debate on constitutional revision after the election. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (LDP president) is certain to step up the debate if the pro-constitutional revision forces maintain a two-thirds majority, which is required for submitting motions for constitutional amendments to the Diet. The number of seats the LDP wins and which party becomes the number one opposition party will also affect the constitutional debate.
Five parties are in favor of constitutional revision: the ruling LDP and Komeito, the Party of Hope, Nippon Ishin [Japan Innovation Party], and Party for Japanese Kokoro. A survey conducted by Tokyo Shimbun on Oct. 17 showed that the two ruling parties alone are likely to maintain their two-thirds majority, and it is possible that the five parties may control around 80% of the seats in the Lower House.
Abe has been advocating the promulgation of a new constitution by 2020, but has toned down his advocacy in light of the recent decline in cabinet support ratings. If the pro-constitutional revision forces win many more seats than a two-thirds majority, it is fully possible that he may renew his call for a new constitution by 2020 and speed up deliberations at the Commissions on the Constitution of both houses of the Diet.
The number of seats the LDP wins in this election compared to the 290 seats it held before the Lower House was dissolved will have an impact. Abe is certain to face criticism if the LDP loses more than 30 seats. The weakening of his leadership will directly affect the constitutional debate.
The number one opposition party is also an important factor. This is because Komeito, which is wary of hasty constitutional revision, insists on obtaining the opposition’s consent. Without Komeito’s support, the pro-constitutional revision forces will not be able to control a two-thirds majority.
According to Tokyo Shimbun’s analysis, the Party of Hope and the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ) are now competing to become the top opposition party. The Party of Hope is amenable to discussing constitutional revision, including revising Article 9.
On the other hand, the CDPJ is opposed to a constitutional provision on the Self-Defense Forces on the grounds that the security laws are unconstitutional. If the CDPJ becomes the number one opposition party, this may slow down the Abe-led constitutional debate. (Abridged)