Ruling bloc tipped to do well in elections

Undecided voters key to opposition parties' hopes in seven prefectures

The ruling coalition is expected to score four victories in seven Diet by-elections on Sunday, with the opposition bloc facing an uphill battle to wrest back the initiative, according to the latest information gathered by Kyodo News.

Kyodo questioned 6,011 voters by telephone in the seven districts between Thursday and Sunday.

The outcome indicates the ruling bloc has gained the upper hand in three and is narrowly ahead of the opposition in another.

The opposition Democratic Party of Japan is in the lead in two districts, but joint candidates fielded by the DPJ, the Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party in two districts are up against heavy odds, fighting candidates backed by the ruling camp.

Analysts believe it will be difficult for the three opposition parties to gain more seats in the elections than the ruling coalition will.

Five by-elections for the House of Representatives will be held in single-seat districts in Yamagata, Niigata, Kanagawa, Osaka and Fukuoka prefectures.

The other two by-elections will be held for the House of Councilors in constituencies in Chiba and Tottori prefectures.

The ruling bloc comprises the Liberal Democratic Party, New Komeito and the New Conservative Party.

However, up to 60 percent of voters have not yet decided who they will vote for and the landscape could change depending on the undecided voters and voter turnouts on Sunday.

In Osaka’s No. 10 constituency, Kenta Matsunami, running on an LDP ticket, is ahead of the pack with support from New Komeito and the NCP.

Yukio Hoshino, an independent with backing from the three ruling parties, has the edge in Niigata’s No. 5 constituency.

Kotaro Tamura, also an independent backed by the ruling parties, is in similar shape in Tottori Prefecture.

The Chiba electoral district features a race between Kazuyasu Shiina, on the LDP ticket, and Yasuhiko Wakai, who is getting joint backing from the three opposition parties.

Jun Saito, endorsed by the DPJ, is leading in Yamagata’s No. 4 district.

Issei Koga, a former DPJ member of the Lower House, has gained a slight lead over Ryuzo Aramaki, who is being fielded by the LDP, and an independent candidate, Nobu Yoshitaka, in Fukuoka’s No. 6 constituency.

In Kanagawa’s No. 8 district, Kenji Eda is leading the race. Eda served as secretary to former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto and is running as an independent after rejecting the LDP’s request to run on the party’s ticket.

One factor that adds uncertainty to the races is the fact that conservative votes are likely to be split in Kanagawa, Osaka, Tottori and Fukuoka prefectures; independent candidates with the backing of conservative forces are running in addition to official LDP candidates and an independent candidate backed by the ruling coalition.

The ruling camp seems to have won the battle to control most of the conservative votes in constituencies in Osaka and Tottori, but it has been racked by a split in support in the remaining two constituencies.

Although four of the seven seats were vacated after lawmakers resigned from the Diet over financial scandals, the survey indicates the topic of money in politics does not appear to have become a major issue of the campaign.

Instead, the economy and rising employment appear to be grabbing the voters’ attention.