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Focus: Kishida worried LDP too relaxed ahead of upper house election

Tokyo, March 15 (Jiji Press)–With less than 100 days to go before the envisaged launch of campaigns for the House of Councillors election this summer, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida feels uneasy about an excessively optimistic mood spreading among members of his Liberal Democratic Party.

In his speech at an LDP convention held at a Tokyo hotel on Sunday, Kishida said, “Let’s get united to win the Upper House election, without letting our guard down.”

The LDP chief apparently gave party members warning against becoming too optimistic about the LDP-led ruling coalition’s victory in the election for the upper chamber of the Diet, the country’s parliament, for which the official campaign period is expected to start on June 22 for voting on July 10.

A senior government official noted the ruling camp is “unlikely to suffer a major defeat,” while a senior LDP member stressed, “We will definitely win.”

Their confidence in a victory reflects tardy progress in talks on electoral cooperation among opposition parties.

Although opposition parties achieved positive results to a certain extent in the past two Upper House elections by unifying candidates in single-seat districts, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and the Japanese Communist Party, which are expected to be at the heart of the opposition alliance in the upcoming election, have yet to reach an agreement.

Now that the Democratic Party for the People has clarified the stance of siding with the LDP, the Japanese Trade Union Confederation, or Rengo, the umbrella organization for the country’s labor unions, may find it difficult to maintain its unity as an organization pitting itself against the ruling camp during the campaign period because its member unions support either the CDP or the DPFP.

The LDP, for its part, is not problem-free either.

The party had to fight gubernatorial elections in four prefectures from last year in which multiple conservative candidates ran.

In Sunday’s governor race in Ishikawa Prefecture, Hiroshi Hase, former education minister with the LDP headquarters’ effective backing, defeated other candidates including a former lawmaker of the ruling party and former mayor of Kanazawa, Ishikawa’s capital. Hase won only marginally as support by the LDP’s prefectural chapter was split over him and the two other LDP-linked candidates.

Preceding gubernatorial elections in Gifu, Hyogo and Nagasaki were split contests as well.

Some have voiced concerns that the election battles among candidates from the LDP especially in Ishikawa, Gifu and Nagasaki will leave resentment within the party’s regional chapters and may affect the results in the three single-seat constituencies in the Upper House election. Ishikawa will also hold a by-election next month for the same chamber.

An LDP faction leader expressed anxiety over the party’s unity in the upcoming elections, saying, “We have a bumpy road ahead.”

The ruling coalition’s Upper House election victory is not fully warranted for now, as it remains to be seen whether a deal between the LDP and its junior coalition partner, Komeito, to mutually support candidates will work successfully, critics said.

In January, Komeito informed its regional chapters that it would forgo mutual recommendations of candidates due to the LDP’s failure to respond to its request for electoral cooperation by the end of last year.

However, Komeito abruptly struck the deal on Friday, in view of the LDP and the DPFP quickly coming closer to each other.

Under the pact, the LDP will back Komeito candidates in five multiseat constituencies while Komeito will decide to give support to LDP candidates one by one through consultations with its local organs.

But the junior ruling coalition party, now frustrated with its significance to the LDP waning, has yet to sweep way doubts that the LDP will provide full cooperation in the Hyogo prefectural constituency so a Komeito candidate can survive an expected fierce battle there.

After being thanked by a senior LDP official for Komeito’s support in the Ishikawa governor race, a senior official at Soka Gakkai, the Buddhist lay organization backing Komeito, asked that the LDP return the favor for the Hyogo constituency.

In addition to election-related obstacles, Kishida is troubled by spiraling prices for raw materials and the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic. Food prices are also going up.

To protect people’s daily lives, the ruling camp is calling for fresh economic measures.

Although the Kishida administration has increased subsidies to check pump price spikes, “if gasoline prices keep rising, in particular, it may affect the results in single-seat constituencies,” an observer said.

Predicting that gasoline prices will rise even further, an LDP source warned, “The atmosphere will change drastically if a seventh infection wave hits (the country) during the Upper House election.”

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