LDP hopes for 229 seats of 480 in Lower House

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The ruling Liberal Democratic Party will consider winning 229 of the Lower House’s 480 seats in the next general election to be a victory, Secretary General Hiromu Nonaka said Friday.

Nonaka, widely viewed as the party’s back-room deal maker, added in an interview that he will step down from his post should the party fall short of this goal.

The LDP currently holds the reigns of government under a tripartite alliance with New Komeito and the New Conservative Party.

Nonaka explained that the 229 figure — 10 seats fewer than the number it took in the last general election in 1996 — was derived after taking into consideration a new law that reduces the number of seats in the House of Representatives from 500 to 480.

“If we lose, I will resign,” said the 74-year-old Nonaka.

Sources close to Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori and the LDP have indicated that it is highly likely the election will be held on June 18 or June 25.

“Will the Japanese people choose the (largest opposition) Democratic Party of Japan, which would (be willing to) include the Japanese Communist Party (as a coalition ally) to take power? Or will they choose liberalism brought about by the LDP, New Komeito and the New Conservative Party?” Nonaka asked.

“I would like voters to make a clear judgment” on this point, he added.

The DPJ, which has repeatedly insisted that it has no intention of teaming up with the JCP, has criticized Nonaka’s recent remarks.

“I don’t care how they criticize me,” Nonaka said, dismissing the opposition’s claim that his recent proposal to cut lawmakers’ salaries by 10 percent is mere grandstanding ahead of the election.

“The general public is suffering because they don’t have jobs. We should not be ashamed of sharing the burden” through pay cuts, he said.

Electoral reform bill

A House of Representatives committee passed a bill Friday to implement a six-point plan aimed at improving the Lower House electoral system.

The ruling coalition — the Liberal Democratic Party, New Komeito and the New Conservative Party — voted for the bill, together with the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan and the Liberal Party.

The bill to revise the Public Offices Election Law is expected to pass the full Lower House during Tuesday’s plenary session. It is expected to be enacted by the end of the month and will be applied from the next general election.

According to the bill, candidates who do not obtain at least one-10th of all eligible votes in single-seat constituencies will not be elected to the Lower House even if they are running for proportional representation seats.

The ruling bloc had initially planned to ban the election of candidates who do not obtain the legally required number of votes, or one-sixth of the eligible votes, but lowered the hurdle after some opposition parties rejected the proposal.

The bill also says that Lower House by-elections should only be held twice a year, in April and October, rather than whenever a seat is vacated.

It also prohibits legislators elected through the proportional representation system from changing parties.

The reforms were prompted by criticism over candidates being able to secure seats through the proportional representation system after failing to obtain the legally required number of votes in single-seat constituencies.