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This week’s featured article

KYODO, STAFF REPORT

Members of the nation’s major political parties kicked off their official House of Councilors election campaigns Wednesday, with the ruling bloc and a united opposition giving speeches centered on the economy around the country.

Half of the 242 seats in the Upper House of the bicameral parliament are up for grabs in the July 10 election.

A total of 225 people had registered to run in constituencies and 164 through the proportional representation system as of midday Wednesday, for a total of 389 declared candidates.

The election will be the first national race in which 18- and 19-year-olds are able to vote after an electoral law amendment lowering the minimum age from 20 took effect Sunday.

About 2.4 million young people are newly eligible to vote. It was the first such change to election rules since 1946, when women gained suffrage and the voting age was lowered from 25.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party and its junior partner, Komeito, aim not just to maintain their majority in the chamber, but to together win at least half of the contested seats, which would be taken as signifying voters’ continued faith in Abe.

The main opposition Democratic Party has looked past its policy differences with smaller opposition parties, including the Japanese Communist Party, to throw its weight behind united candidates in all 32 contested single-member electoral districts.

Although manifestos of the parties on both sides start with economic policy, the opposition is also going after the Abe administration’s security policies and the LDP’s long-standing ambition to reform the pacifist Constitution.

To call a national plebiscite on altering the Constitution, Abe would need the support of two-thirds of both houses of the Diet.

The ruling parties currently have such a majority in the Lower House, and hope to clear, with the cooperation of some smaller parties, the two-thirds mark in the Upper House as well. The LDP-led coalition will reach that crucial juncture if, together with parties in favor of the constitutional amendment, they win a total of 78 seats.

First published in The Japan Times on June 23.

Warm up

One-minute chat about the young generation.

Game

Collect words related to Japan, e.g., island, economy, election.

New words

1) constituency: the district served by an elected official; e.g., “The prime minister’s constituency is in Yamaguchi.”

2) amendment: a change made by correction, addition or deletion; e.g., “She requested an amendment to her contract.”

3) eligible: qualified for or permitted to do something; e.g., “I’m afraid you are not eligible for this offer.”

4) pacifist: opposed to war; e.g., “He joined the pacifist movement.”

5) plebiscite: a direct vote in regard to some important public question; e.g., “Britons decided in a plebiscite to leave the EU.”

6) coalition: an alliance of people, factions, parties or nations; e.g., “The LDP and Komeito make up the ruling coalition.”

Guess the headline

E_ _ _ _ _ _ in focus as campaigning starts for Japan’s July 10 U_ _ _ _ House race

Questions

1) How many more people will be eligible to vote for the first time?

2) What is the LDP’s target in this election?

3) What does the Democratic Party point out in its manifesto?

Let’s discuss the article

1) Do you always vote in elections?

2) What do you think about 18- and 19-year-olds voting in the poll?

3) What could be done to improve the electoral system in Japan?

Reference

10代の若者たちが投票権を得て選挙に参加する最初の国政選挙が始まります。楽しみに思う10代、不安に思う10代、政治に興味が持てない10代など様々な心境があるようですが、歴史に残る一回となることでしょう。

それぞれの持つ一票で、私たちはどのような将来を選んでいくのでしょうか。

投票率の低迷も指摘される中で、どのような取り組みがなされるべきなのでしょう。朝の会に参加し、皆さんでこのトピックについて話し合ってみましょう。

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