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Japan election

Constitutional revision hangs in balance of Japan's election

Abe's ruling bloc and others appear on bubble for required two-thirds majority

Japanese voters listen to candidates speak in Kobe on July 14, one week before the Diet upper house election.   © Kyodo

TOKYO -- Japan's ruling coalition and other parties in favor of revising the constitution appear on the edge of maintaining two-thirds of the seats in the Diet's upper house after the July 21 election, the threshold needed for them to begin the amendment process.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has long sought to amend Article 9 of Japan's pacifist constitution to enshrine the role of the country's Self-Defense Forces. Any proposal to amend the constitution needs two-thirds of the vote in each house of parliament before earning a simple majority from the public in a referendum.

Members of the upper house serve six-year terms, with about half the seats up for grabs every three years. The upcoming contest involves 124 seats, of which 74 will be chosen through constituency races and the remaining 50 by proportional representation.

Abe's ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the other pro-revision parties need to win 85 seats in the election in order to have the 164 seats required in the upper house to pass a proposal with a two-thirds supermajority.

The LDP leads in about 70% of the 32 districts with one contested seat, mainly in western Japan, Nikkei's nationwide poll and research show. Of the districts with two to six contested seats, the ruling party is expected to secure at least one seat in each of them, while eyeing a second seat in some. As for proportional representation, the party may improve from the 19 spots won last time.

Junior coalition partner Komeito, which controls 11 of the contested seats, is on track to increase its strength in the Diet's upper chamber. The LDP and Komeito look set to take more than the 63 seats that would let them retain a simple majority.

One of the pro-revision parties outside the coalition, Nippon Ishin no Kai, is on track to win two seats in the Osaka district, in addition to about four seats via proportional representation.

The Nikkei poll found a 49% approval rating for Japan's cabinet, while 35% disapprove. However, public support for amending the constitution was split evenly, at 38% each for and against.

A constitutional amendment was favored by 59% of LDP supporters, along with 40% of Komeito supporters. But 77% of those backing the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan were against the proposal, as were 76% of supporters of the Japanese Communist Party.

The Constitutional Democrats look to double the nine contested constituency seats the party now holds and aim to pick up 10 proportional slots. Such gains would bolster the CDP's presence in the upper house, putting it well above 30 seats.

Meanwhile, the fellow opposition Democratic Party for the People appears likely to lose some of the eight contested seats it now holds.

Opposition parties cooperated and fielded joint candidates in the 32 single-seat districts, but they are faring poorly in most areas besides the Tohoku region of northern Japan.

Abe's ruling coalition already has a two-thirds majority in the Diet's lower house.

The poll was carried out by Nikkei Research via random-digit dialing from Friday to Sunday, receiving 26,826 responses from eligible voters, for a response rate of 53%.

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