National

JCP STUNG; SDP BARELY HOLDS ON

Constitutional revisionists see gain

Diet forces vowing to keep the Constitution intact lost further ground in the House of Councilors election, as the Japanese Communist Party suffered a major setback and the tiny Social Democratic Party barely hung on, according to final results released Monday.

In the proportional representation segment Sunday, the JCP won four seats out of the 15 it contested, while the SDP held onto its two seats.

The two parties failed to win any seats in the constituency section. The JCP had aimed to keep at least 12 seats and the SDP sought two or more.

The JCP attracted 5.52 million votes, or 9.84 percent of all ballots cast, in the constituency section, and 4.36 million votes, or 7.8 percent, in the proportional representation section.

The SDP obtained 984,340 votes, or 1.75 percent of the turnout, in the constituency section, and 2.99 million, or 5.35 percent, in the proportional representation segment.

The SDP and JCP have been vocal in calling for preserving the pacifist Constitution amid strong calls for revisions.

Both the Liberal Democratic Party and the Democratic Party of Japan are advocating revisions.

The recent deployment of Self-Defense Forces troops to Iraq has again stirred debate on constitutional revisions, as critics argue the dispatch violates Article 9, which states that Japan will forever renounce war as a sovereign right and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes.

But the JCP and SDP failed to attract voters to their cause, as the issue of the Constitution was overshadowed by other matters during the campaign, including pension system reforms.

Apart from espousing their stance on protecting the Constitution, the two parties revamped their policies to make themselves more relevant. But voters seemed unimpressed, and those critical of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s administration apparently preferred the DPJ.

“We were unable to sway public opinion amid the flow of voters deciding whether they should go for the LDP or DPJ,” JCP leader Kazuo Shii said.

But he said he does not intend to step down, as he believes it is his “responsibility to create a direction for a new kind of politics centered on people and counter to the two-party system.”

The SDP meanwhile appeared relieved at having retained its two seats.

“We don’t feel a sense of defeat,” SDP Secretary General Seiji Mataichi told reporters.

SDP leader Mizuho Fukushima, taking into account the party’s fading influence and its setback in last November’s general election, was also optimistic.

“I’m glad the party was able to hang on and create a stepping stone toward rebuilding itself. I would like to use this to make a fresh start (for the SDP),” said Fukushima, who was one of the two successful SDP candidates.

For the JCP, it is the first time in 45 years that it failed to secure a single seat in the constituencies. In the 1998 election, which was a disaster for the LDP, the JCP secured a record-high seven seats, but this dropped to one in the 2001 election when Koizumi’s popularity was at its peak.

For the SDP, it is the second time it has not won any seats in the constituencies for the Upper House.

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