870 to run in Lower House election

LDP, DPJ to face off in single-seat constituencies; fate of 'Koizumi children' uncertain

Kyodo News

As of Wednesday, 870 people, including 127 women, were planning to file their candidacies for the next House of Representatives election, which basically must be held by September, according to a Kyodo News tally.

Of the total, 800 candidates are planning to run in 300 single-seat constituencies, with head-to-head competition between the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the Democratic Party of Japan, the main opposition force, anticipated in 257 of these districts, the survey showed.

The DPJ-led opposition camp, which has controlled the House of Councilors since the chamber’s July 2007 election, will be seeking to overthrow the LDP-New Komeito ruling bloc in the general election.

The ruling bloc, which has a two-thirds majority in the Lower House, is expected to face a defensive battle to maintain its strength amid falling public support ratings for the Cabinet of Prime Minister Taro Aso since its launch in September.

With the single-seat constituencies and proportional representation segment combined, there are 480 seats in the Lower House, and attention will focus on whether the LDP or the DPJ can win a majority in the powerful chamber.

If Aso dissolves the Lower House for a general election, it must be held within 40 days of the dissolution. Thus if he dissolves the chamber when its members’ terms expire on Sept. 10, the poll would be held on Oct. 20 at the latest.

But if he decides not to dissolve the house and waits for the terms to expire, then technically the election must take place 30 days before the expiry, which would mean sometime between Aug. 11 and Sept. 9.

While the Constitution stipulates that the “term of office of members of the House of Representatives shall be four years,” Lower House members have completed their full term only once, in 1976, in the 23 postwar Lower House polls.

Of those candidates planning to compete in the single-seat districts, 297 are expected to run on the LDP ticket, while the DPJ is likely to field 264 candidates, New Komeito eight, the Japanese Communist Party 148, the Social Democratic Party 31 and the Kokumin Shinto (People’s New Party) 12.

Within the LDP, the future of the approximately 80 so-called Koizumi children, who were elected to the Lower House for the first time in the 2005 election with the backing of then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, is uncertain.

While these relatively unknown candidates won in that election thanks to Koizumi’s popularity, party executives are not moving to promise support for many of them in the next general election.

Aso recession vow

Prime Minister Taro Aso vowed to do his utmost to address the uncertainties of the economic situation and people’s livelihoods and to make Japan the first country to overcome the global recession as he issued a New Year’s statement Thursday.

“I will never run away. I will move ahead steadily with the people,” Aso said, suggesting he will not bow out despite his dwindling popularity.

Aso vowed to place priority on mending the deteriorating economy. “The government will make utmost efforts” to eliminate people’s uncertainties over the economy and their livelihoods, he said.

“Japan will be the first country in the world to get out of this recession,” he said.

The government is set to submit a second supplementary budget at the outset of a regular Diet session that convenes Monday and to introduce a fiscal 2009 budget on around Jan. 19 to finance government measures to support people’s livelihoods and employment.