• Kyodo

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The ruling coalition parties will aim to capture 269 seats in the next Lower House election, widely expected to be held on June 25, Chief Cabinet Secretary Mikio Aoki said Sunday.

Although a simple majority in the House of Representatives can be clinched with 241 seats this election, Aoki said in a press conference here that the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, New Komeito and the New Conservative Party should aim to have an “absolutely comfortable majority.”

Aoki based his figure on the fact that people chairing Lower House committees cannot vote on legislative matters within those committees. If the coalition secures a majority, some of its power will be diluted when it assigns members to lead various committees as the chairmanships are allocated in proportion to the number of seats each party holds in the chamber. Thus, extra seats must be won, he said.

As of Friday, the coalition had 336 — or 67 percent — of the 500 seats in the lower chamber. Due to administrative reforms, the total will be reduced to 480 seats beginning with this election. The goal Aoki has suggested would give the alliance 56 percent of the seats.

Aoki’s remarks were apparently meant to instill confidence in fellow LDP members ahead of the election, because senior members of the ruling bloc have been recommending less lofty goals, such as a simple majority of 241 seats.

Touching upon the expected Cabinet reshuffle following the general election, Aoki said Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori should be the one to chair the upcoming Group of Eight summit in Okinawa in July.

“The leaders of the G8 countries are preparing for the summit on the premise that it will be conducted under Prime Minister Mori,” Aoki said.

Aoki also hinted that Foreign Minister Yohei Kono and Finance Minister Kiichi Miyazawa may retain their posts in the new Cabinet.

“The prime minister is the one to think about the Cabinet reshuffle,” Aoki said. “But when we think about our international position, it is also common sense that it is possible for them to stay in their positions.”

Speaking about Mori’s press conference Friday over his controversial remarks that Japan is a “divine country centering on the Emperor,” Aoki said Mori’s apology will be enough to gain the understanding of the Japanese people.

No illusions: Nonaka

Hiromu Nonaka, secretary general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, said Sunday that Japan’s economic recovery is more important than reconstructing government finances at this time.

“Economic recovery is the top priority. I am not under the illusion that we can restore a sound government budget starting next year,” Nonaka said on a television program.

Nonaka suggested in his remarks that the government will place priority on economic reforms involving privatization of government-affiliated corporations until the actual rate of economic growth stabilizes at 2 to 3 percent.

The former chief cabinet secretary said the government has no plans to stop issuing deficit-covering national bonds.

“We have so far issued 80 trillion yen (in deficit government bonds), so it is impossible to eliminate them altogether from the budget for the next fiscal year,” Nonaka said.

He also reiterated his belief that the LDP’s fate depends on whether it can win at least 229 of the 480 House of Representatives seats up for grabs in the upcoming general election, expected to take place June 25.