Tokyo, April 8 (Jiji Press)–Candidates in elections to fill two seats in Japan’s House of Councillors officially started campaigning on Thursday, with the ruling and opposition camps both resolved to win the polls in the run-up to the next general election, set to be held by autumn.
The elections for the upper chamber of the Diet, the country’s parliament will be the first parliamentary polls since the government of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga was launched in September last year.
The results of the polls would likely affect Suga’s handling of his administration and his strategy regarding when to dissolve the House of Representatives, the all-important lower chamber of the Diet, for a snap general election.
The Upper House elections in the prefectural constituencies of Nagano, central Japan, and Hiroshima, western Japan, are expected to be de facto one-on-one battles between candidates backed by the ruling and opposition camps, with key issues including the Suga government’s responses to the new coronavirus epidemic.
The Upper House seat in Nagano became vacant due to the death in December 2020 of Yuichiro Hata, former land, infrastructure, transport and tourism minister, who was a member of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.
The Hiroshima election will be held after Anri Kawai’s winning of the Hiroshima prefectural constituency seat in the July 2019 Upper House poll was invalidated as her guilty court ruling over her vote-buying in the poll in violation of the public offices election law became final in February this year.
Also scheduled for April 25 is a Lower House by-election for the No. 2 constituency in the northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido.
The ruling Liberal Democratic Party is believed to have given up on putting up a candidate in the Lower House election, which will be held after former Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Takamori Yoshikawa, from the LDP, resigned from the Lower House last December over a money scandal. Yoshikawa was indicted without arrest over the case earlier this year.
Three people filed their candidacies in the Nagano by-election. Of them, former LDP Lower House lawmaker Yutaka Komatsu, 59, was fielded by the ruling party and is backed by its coalition partner, Komeito. CDP candidate Jiro Hata, the 51-year-old brother of Yuichiro Hata and former secretary to a Lower House lawmaker, is supported by three other opposition parties–the Japanese Communist Party, the Democratic Party for the People and the Social Democratic Party. Kotaro Kamiya, 44, who works for NHK Jushinryo wo Shiharawanai Hoho wo Oshieru To, a party that focuses on the issue of viewing fees for public broadcaster NHK, or Japan Broadcasting Corp., was put up by the anti-NHK party.
Six people entered the Hiroshima rerun election. They include 45-year-old freelance announcer Haruko Miyaguchi, who belongs to local political group Kesshu Hiroshima and is backed by the CDP, the DPFP and the SDP, LDP candidate Hidenori Nishida, a 39-year-old former bureaucrat at the ministry of economy, trade and industry, who is supported by Komeito, and Takahira Yamamoto, a 46-year-old worker of the anti-NHK party.
In a speech in the city of Nagano, LDP General Council Chairman Tsutomu Sato sought voter support for Komatsu in the Upper House by-election in Nagano Prefecture. “We have to overcome the novel coronavirus crisis as early as possible,” Sato said, calling Komatsu a person who can produce quick results.
Meanwhile, CDP Secretary-General Tetsuro Fukuyama criticized the Suga government for “not functioning at all” although the epidemic has been dealing a blow to people’s lives, economic activities and the medical systems.
In the city of Hiroshima, former LDP policy chief Fumio Kishida, who heads the party’s Hiroshima prefectural chapter, asked voters to pick Nishida in the election in the prefecture. “We must elect the right person this time,” Kishida said, referring to the scandal involving Kawai, a former member of the ruling party.
The Kawai scandal may have made people in Hiroshima feel ashamed, CDP acting leader Renho said, seeking voter support for Miyaguchi.