With polls suggesting the Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito pair will probably return to power after Sunday’s Lower House election, political analysts and insiders are already focusing on whether the alliance can win a majority in the Upper House race next summer and control the Diet.
On Friday, two Upper House members left the chamber’s parliamentary group led by the LDP, dropping the group’s strength to 83 in the 242-seat chamber, which currently has six vacancies.
As a result, the LDP-New Komeito alliance now holds 102 seats, 16 short of a majority.
The two are Kyoko Nakayama, former special advisor to the prime minister, and former communications minister Toranosuke Katayama, both former members of the now-defunct Tachiagare Nippon (Sunrise Party of Japan). They are now members of Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) led by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto and former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara.
When it comes to choosing a prime minister, approving the budget and ratifying treaties, decisions in the Lower House take priority over the Upper House.
But for other legislative action, including passing administration-sponsored bills, an LDP-New Komeito ruling coalition could suffer from the divided Diet much like the current ruling force, the Democratic Party of Japan, at least until the Upper House election.
If the LDP-New Komeito camp on Sunday wins more than two-thirds of the Lower House — 320 seats — the story will be different.
That would give them the power to override decisions by the Upper House. But such overrides have been rare and the political costs can be high because such moves run the risk of being seen by voters as heavy-handed.
To secure a majority in the Upper House, the LDP will likely try to form an alliance with other minor parties or persuade some DPJ members to defect.
As of Friday, the DPJ-led group in the Upper House held 90 seats against the LDP-led group’s 83. New Komeito has 19 seats, Your Party 11, Kokumin no Seikatsu ga Daiichi (People’s Party First) eight, the Japanese Communist Party six, the Social Democratic Party-led group four, Midori no Kaze (Green Wind) four, Shinto Kaikaku two and New Party Daichi two.