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Nearly 170 people preparing to run in upper house election

Kyodo

A total of 169 people were preparing to run in the House of Councillors election in summer either in constituencies or proportional representation blocks as of Sunday, a Kyodo News survey showed.

The election, with half of the chamber’s 242 seats up for grabs, will be a chance for the public to hand down a verdict on the performance of Japan’s new government under the Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition ally the New Komeito party, which returned to power following a landslide victory in the Dec. 16 lower house election.

Of the 121 seats, 73 will be filled by winners from constituencies and the remaining 48 by those chosen under the proportional representation system.

With the upper house election coming soon after the lower house one, political parties have yet to begin work on fielding candidates. The election may take place in July.

Attention is focused on whether the ruling coalition can achieve a majority in the upper house or the opposition camp will be able to maintain the status quo of a divided parliament to use as a leverage to challenge the LDP-led government.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who heads the LDP, wants to stabilize his government by breaking the deadlock in parliament. To do so, the ruling camp needs to secure at least 122 seats to control the upper house.

The LDP and New Komeito can win a majority if they add 20 seats to the 44 up for grabs they already have. They also hold between them 58 not being contested this time.

Currently, the opposition camp has 134 seats and if it is able to keep the number of seat losses to 13 or fewer they can block the ruling party from gaining a majority.

But it may be difficult for the opposition bloc to defeat the LDP and New Komeito unless they forge alliances with new political parties vying to become “third forces” against established political parties who will face their first upper house election. Failure to do so could split the opposition vote.

The number of potential candidates preparing to run in the upper house election was down by about 30 from a similar survey conducted around the same time three years ago.

Upper house lawmakers have a six-year term and half of the seats in the upper house are up for grabs every three years. The terms for upper house lawmakers elected in 2007 will expire July 28.