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The three-party ruling coalition will keep its majority in the House of Councilors — albeit by a narrow margin — in next summer’s election, which is to be held under a new electoral system, according to a Kyodo News projection.

The projection was made by taking into account the number of votes each party collected in the proportional representation portion of the House of Representatives election in June.

A total of 121 seats are up for grabs next summer, or about half of the current 252 members in the upper chamber.

The ruling coalition would hold a combined 131 seats after the election, with the three parties likely retaining 70 of the 76 seats they hold going into the election.

The Liberal Democratic Party — the dominant party in the ruling triumvirate with New Komeito and the New Conservative Party — would win 62 seats, or one more than it holds now.

Including the 47 seats not up for re-election, its total would be 109 — not enough to secure a majority. However, the figure would be boosted to 131 with the addition of seats won by New Komeito and the NCP.

According to the estimates, the LDP would win 47 out of 73 electoral district seats and 15 out of the 48 proportional representation seats.

Lawmakers from the ruling parties last week passed a contentious bill to revise the House of Councilors’ electoral system so that ballots can be cast either for individual candidates on party lists or for the parties themselves.

The current system allows votes only for parties.

The legislation also cuts 10 of the current 252 Upper House seats, with five to be cut in next summer’s election and another five in 2004.

The bill was pushed through the Lower House plenary session on the strength of the ruling coalition’s majority in the chamber.

According to the projection, the Democratic Party of Japan, the main opposition force, would win 35 seats in the election — 22 in electoral districts and 13 in proportional representation — a strong gain compared with the 23 it has up for re-election.

The party currently holds 58 seats in the Upper House, including those up for re-election next summer.

New Komeito seats would be reduced from the current 13 to eight, the projection says, adding that the NCP would not win any seats.

Among other opposition parties, the Liberal Party and the Japanese Communist Party would win six seats each, while the Social Democratic Party would win four — only in proportional representation.

The projection shows that in the electoral districts, the LDP would win in all single-seat constituencies save for Iwate Prefecture, which would fall to the Liberal Party, whose leader, Ichiro Ozawa, hails from the prefecture.

The new system allocates proportional representation seats to parties based on the number of votes they and their candidates receive. The parties would then assign seats to candidates in accordance with their performances.

The opposition parties charge that the ruling bloc is seeking the changes merely to boost its chances in the next Upper House election by fielding big-name candidates to garner votes for the parties, for example.

As the number of votes that big-name candidates receive can be added onto a party’s total, it now becomes possible for other candidates to be elected on the coattails of the more popular ones.

The opposition also argues the changes will make campaigns more costly.

Kyodo News also conducted a simulation based on the voting results of the June 1980 Upper House election, the final time voters cast ballots for individual candidates in a national constituency.

In the projection, votes cast for party candidates in the 1980 poll were calculated into votes for parties.

Then the 48 seats up for grabs in the proportional representation part of the next Upper House election were distributed among the parties in proportion to the votes they won.

As a result, the LDP would wind up with 23 seats, up from the 21 it won in the 1980 poll. Meanwhile, the SDP seats would be reduced to seven from nine and New Komeito would fall from nine to six.

In the 1980 race, the LDP had its candidates, many whom were well-known figures, canvass the entire country in the hope of drawing large numbers of voters, and as a result won 42.5 percent, or 23.77 million, of the votes cast.

In the projection, a New Komeito candidate who secured about 700,000 votes lost while an LDP candidate who garnered roughly 520,000 votes got a place in the chamber, an indication that some of the opposition criticism of the new electoral system is not unfounded, some observers said.

Meanwhile, Fusae Ichikawa, an independent candidate who collected the top number of votes in 1980 — roughly 2.24 million — would be able to secure two seats with that number of votes in the upcoming election.

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