Japan Diet By-Elections Seen as Bellwether on Kishida

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Municipal employees assemble a ballot box at a gymnasium in Takamatsu, Kagawa Prefecture.

By-elections for both houses of the Diet are being decided in five constituencies on Sunday, the outcomes of which are likely to affect Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s administration.

The by-elections are for Chiba Constituency No. 5, Wakayama Constituency No. 1 and Yamaguchi Constituencies No. 2 and 4 of the House of Representatives and for the Oita Constituency of the House of Councillors.

The same day, the second half of unified local elections across the nation are also being held for mayors and council members of cities other than large, ordinance-designated cities, and for mayors and assembly members of the wards, towns, and villages in Tokyo.

On Saturday, the last day of campaigning, party leaders took to the streets to make their final appeals.

Kishida, who is also president of the Liberal Democratic Party, made a speech in Oita on Saturday morning, saying, “I implore you to give more power to the current LDP-Komeito administration.”

Kenta Izumi, leader of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, rode in a campaign car in Oita on Saturday morning and said, “We should not make the Diet full of the LDP.”

Both the ruling and opposition parties tried to draw votes by having big wigs including former prime ministers give stump speeches in Chiba Constituency No. 5, Wakayama Constituency No. 1 and Oita Constituency, all of which are considered closely contested.

After a roadside speech in Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture, on Friday, LDP Vice President Taro Aso went around giving fist bumps to listeners.

About two hours later, former Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga took the microphone in Ichikawa, Chiba Prefecture, and said, “A stable administration can take measures to combat price rises.”

The by-election for Chiba Constituency No. 5 is being held after the then lawmaker who belonged to the Aso faction of the LDP resigned because of a politics and money scandal.

Opposition parties, including the CDPJ, Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party), the Japanese Communist Party and the Democratic Party for the People, have each entered their officially ticketed candidate to vie for the seat.

Former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda of the CDPJ said in a roadside speech in Ichikawa on Friday: “This is an election to make an interim evaluation of the Kishida administration. We have to show our intention of saying ‘no’ to the Kishida administration.”

The five by-elections for the Diet are all showdowns between the ruling and opposition parties. Before the by-elections, the LDP had held Yamaguchi Constituencies No. 2 and 4, besides Chiba Constituency No. 5.

If the ruling LDP can increase its seats, Kishida will gain strength. But if the party loses seats, it will be a headwind for his administration.

Ishin hopes to maintain the momentum it gained, particularly in the Kansai region, in the first half of the unified local elections on April 9, by winning a seat in Wakayama Constituency No. 1. Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura, one of the leaders of the party, appealed to voters in his roadside speech in Wakayama on Friday, saying, “We want to take the overwhelmingly strong LDP by surprise.”

The CDPJ considers the election in the Oita Constituency, which is known as a strong base for non-LDP parties, as an “election we cannot afford to lose.” On Friday, Izumi and upper house lawmaker Renho went to Oita to support the party’s candidate.

In response to the recent attack on Kishida with the use of an explosive device, prefectural police have tightened security for roadside speeches by senior members of the political parties.