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Abe’s LDP extends lead as election campaign heats up, Kyodo News poll

TOKYO — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party has extended its lead over opposition parties, according to a Kyodo News poll on Saturday, as the campaign for the July 21 upper house election heats up.


The latest nationwide survey, conducted for two days from Friday, shows support for the LDP has edged up 2.2 percentage points to 31.0 percent from the previous poll conducted on June 26 and 27.


The survey also found that 7.2 percent said they would vote for the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, down 1.8 points.


Some 5.6 percent said they support Komeito, the LDP’s coalition partner, unchanged from the June poll, followed by the Japan Innovation Party on 4.4. percent, up 1.2 points, the Japanese Communist Party on 2.9 percent, down 0.5 points, and the Democratic Party for the People on 2.5 percent, up 0.9 points.


Nonetheless, some 37.4 percent said they were undecided, down 1.8 points. The 17-day election campaign started on July 4.


One half of the House of Councillors’ seats are contested every three years. Due to electoral system reform the total number of its seats will increase to 245 from the current 242 with the upcoming election, in which 124 seats — 121 plus an additional three — are up for grabs.


Of the 124, 74 will be chosen in single-seat constituencies and 50 through proportional representation.


In the survey, 32.2 percent said they would vote for the ruling coalition of the LDP and the Komeito party, up 0.9 point, while 21.8 percent said they would vote for opposition as their electoral district representatives, up 1.5 points.


The approval rate for the Abe Cabinet fell 1.1 points to 46.5 percent, while the disapproval rate also decreased 3.8 points to 40.3 percent.


According to the poll, 64.0 percent said they were either “very interested” or “have some interest” in the election, compared to 69.0 percent in a similar survey conducted around the same period three years ago ahead of the previous upper house election.


The figures indicate voter turnout this time may fall below the 54.70 percent for electoral districts in the 2016 election, though the survey methods are slightly different between the two polls.


As a controversial government panel report that raised concerns about the country’s public pension system remains a key issue during the election campaign, the survey showed 46.1 percent see the report as a point of contention, down 4.0 points.


The report said that an average retired couple would face a shortfall of 20 million yen ($185,000) under the current pension system if they live to be 95 years old. Finance Minister Taro Aso, who doubles as minister for financial services, said the report contradicts the government’s view that the pension system is the basis of household finances during post-retirement years.


While Abe is calling for more discussions on the revision of the Constitution during his election campaign, 51.4 percent voiced opposition to the amendment under his administration, up from 50.1 percent in the previous poll.


On the government’s plan to hike the consumption tax to 10 percent in October from the current 8 percent, 54.3 percent expressed opposition to it, up 3.2 points.


The survey covered 2,359 randomly selected households with eligible voters via random-digit dialing and received responses from 1,229 people.

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