Ascertain candidates’ political views, make careful choices

The international situation as well as Japan’s economy and society are undergoing major changes. This is an important opportunity to determine the direction of the nation. It is vital to make correct choices by carefully evaluating the candidates’ promises and assertions.

Campaigning for the House of Councillors election has officially kicked off. A total of 545 candidates are running for 125 seats — 124 seats in which the current holders’ term of office is set to end, plus one seat to fill a vacancy in the Kanagawa constituency.

This is the first time since 1995 that more than 500 candidates have run in an upper house election. This situation stems from the fact that the opposition parties could not arrange to jointly field a candidate in many constituencies, and as a result they are competing fiercely against each other there. In addition, minor parties actively fielded candidates.

In his opening speech in Fukushima City, Prime Minister and Liberal Democratic Party President Fumio Kishida said: “Political stability is necessary to overcome challenges. It is the LDP-Komeito administration that will open the way to the future.”

Starting with this election, the number of seats in the upper house will increase by three to 248. Kishida has set a target for the LDP and its coalition partner Komeito of securing a majority, including their 69 seats that are not up for grabs this time. The coalition needs to win at least 56 seats to achieve that goal. The question is whether Kishida will be able to garner a certain level of support and secure the momentum to promote his policies.

Kenta Izumi, the leader of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, said in Aomori City, “Your livelihood, household budget and financial situation must not be ignored. Our party will continue to fight soaring prices.”

How can the stagnant economy be improved? The ruling and opposition parties must thoroughly explain their specific measures to raise wages and their road map for economic growth.

Populist politicians and far-right parties have gained momentum in Western countries, where inequality has widened in recent years. In Japan, too, there is a growing support for extreme positions, due to distrust toward established political parties.

The use of crowdfunding by small and midsize parties and minor groups to raise donations online can be said to be a new initiative in the digital age. How this will impact the results of the election needs to be closely watched.

The upper house acts as a check on and a supplement to the House of Representatives. Upper house members serve six years and must have a high level of insight. Voters need to examine the abilities and qualifications of candidates through the election campaigning.

An upper house election is not a national election in which the public chooses which party is most fit to govern. However, the upper house holds strong authority, so it can upend the political situation.

The former Democratic Party of Japan, which won a landslide victory in the 2007 upper house election and became the leading party in the chamber at that time, forced the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s refueling mission in the Indian Ocean to be suspended, bringing the then LDP-New Komeito administration to a standstill. The post of governor of the Bank of Japan temporarily became vacant for the first time since the end of World War II.

In the current upper house election as well, the changes in the number of seats held by each party will influence their future implementation of policies.

Voter turnout in national elections has been sluggish. However, an increasing number of municipalities have set up stations for early in-person voting at commercial facilities, universities and elsewhere. It is important to cast each valuable ballot.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 23, 2022)