Tokyo Notes

DPJ to Miss Majority Goal?

An Asahi poll suggests the DPJ will fall short of securing an upper house majority on Sunday.

Media opinion polls released before Sunday’s upper house election indicate that the ruling coalition will fall short of securing a majority, creating difficulties for the government trying to pass legislation in the Diet.

The Democratic Party of Japan needs to win 60 of the seats up for grabs to gain a majority in the house or 56 to maintain a coalition majority, but the polls suggest the DPJ will fall short even of Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s election goal of winning at least 54 seats.

The Liberal Democratic Party, which was humiliated in last year’s general election, is expected to come a close second, capitalizing on discontent with the DPJ’s 10 months in power.

Your Party, led by former LDP member Yoshimi Watanabe looks set to place a distant but potentially significant third. Watanabe is calling for drastic government reform before any changes are made to the tax system, and in doing so the party is likely to pick up voters worried about DPJ and LDP plans to raise the consumption tax.

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A poll by the Asahi Shimbun, one of Japan’s two biggest dailies, predicted the DPJ would win an estimated 49 seats, the LDP 44, Your Party 11, New Komeito 8 and the Japanese Communist Party 4.

But the survey also found that up to 40 percent of voters have yet to decide on who they will vote for, indicating that the result is still far from certain.

Upper house elections are held every 3 years with half the chamber’s 242 seats contested. Japan’s upper house is relatively strong and can block legislation if the government doesn’t have a two-thirds majority in the lower house, which the DPJ doesn’t.