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Ruling bloc lowers sights for poll, sets goal as 241-seat threshold

by Masami Ito

The Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling bloc’s goal in the Aug. 30 Lower House election is simply to keep its majority and grip on power, a far cry from its landslide win in the September 2005 poll, LDP Secretary General Hiroyuki Hosoda said.

“Looking at the opinion polls, it will be an extremely difficult election,” Hosoda, who holds the No. 2 position in the LDP, admitted in a group interview Friday. “We have set our goal between the LDP and New Komeito at the 241 seats necessary for a majority.”

In the last election, in 2005, under then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, the LDP-New Komeito camp emerged with 327 seats, more than two-thirds of the 480-seat Lower House.

But since then, public criticism of the LDP has soared, leading to a drastic drop in its support rate. Prime Minister Taro Aso is the third leader to follow Koizumi. Predecessors Shinzo Abe and Yasuo Fukuda both quit out of the blue after only serving one year each.

“Now, four years later, we are aware that we can’t hope for the kind” of landslide victory like in 2005, Hosoda said.

The LDP-New Komeito bloc lost its majority in the Upper House to the opposition camp in the 2007 election. The coalition has struggled to pass bills in the divided Diet ever since.

If the Democratic Party of Japan wrests control of the government either on its own or with other opposition parties in the poll, the problems stemming from a divided Diet would be resolved.

But if the LDP and New Komeito maintain their Lower House majority, the legislative gridlock would remain.

To resolve the situation, some have proposed a single-chamber system, an idea Hosoda said he agrees with to a certain extent and one that was initially floated by the LDP. He added, however, that it would be extremely difficult to change the legislature.

“From the viewpoint of being effective on a national level, a two-chamber system is wonderful, but I can agree with those who say that the will of the Diet should be united as one,” Hosoda said. “But it won’t be easy, because in order to do so, a revision of the Constitution would be necessary.”

Hosoda blasted the DPJ for its about-face on the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s refueling mission in the Indian Ocean.

The DPJ, together with other opposition parties, has repeatedly voted against the bill to extend the refueling activities. But in its draft policy platform revealed Thursday, the DPJ scrapped the clause stating the party opposes the extension.

The DPJ “has been opposing (Self-Defense Forces activities overseas), saying deploying the SDF abroad was a problem from the viewpoint of the Constitution,” Hosoda said. “So, is the party now saying that there is no problem?”