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367 look to run in July election

Kyodo

A total of 367 candidates are scheduled to run in the next Upper House election, which is expected to be held July 21, with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner, New Komeito, aiming to secure the 129 seats needed for a stable majority in the 242-seat body, the latest Kyodo News tally shows.

The LDP, headed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and New Komeito — which together hold 59 Upper House seats that will not be contested in the upcoming poll — need to win 70 seats out of 121 up for grabs to ensure the safe majority.

Any ruling bloc with 129 seats or more will secure all of the Upper House’s top posts on standing committees as well as half of those committees’ members.

At present, the ruling coalition holds a majority in the more powerful Lower House, while the other chamber is controlled by the opposition camp.

Members of Upper House have six-year terms, with elections held every three years for half of the 242 seats.

Candidates will face a slew of major issues in the election campaign, expected to kick off July 4 — including discussion of proposals to amend the Constitution and the results of Abe’s economic policies, known as “Abenomics.”

On Tuesday, the prime minister told representatives from local LDP chapters to accelerate preparations for the election, saying: “The election battle has effectively started, with official campaigning to be launched in a month.”

Abe said he believes the nation’s economy has recovered through his policies and is hoping to capitalize on this momentum.

The Democratic Party of Japan could stand in the way of Abe’s goals, with leader Banri Kaieda, vowing during a stump speech in Tokyo to halt their further rise.

Of the 121 seats up for grabs, 73 are to be filled by winners of 47 prefectural electoral districts and the remaining 48 by those chosen under the nationwide proportional representation system, with voters casting two ballots on election day.

By party, the LDP has decided to field 80 candidates, while New Komeito will officially endorse 11. The DPJ, still reeling from its devastating loss in the Lower House poll last December, has so far approved 54 to run on its ticket.

The Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), led by embattled Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto and former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, will field 41 candidates, while Your Party, the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party will officially endorse 23, 51 and eight candidates, respectively.

Futenma in LDP pledges?

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party is now considering mentioning the planned relocation of a U.S. military base within Okinawa in its campaign pledges for the July Upper House election.

LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba told a senior official of the party’s Okinawa prefectural chapter Tuesday that the pledges may include the plan to replace U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in the city of Ginowan with a planned airstrip in the less populated Henoko coast.