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July’s House of Councilors election is expected to see 270 people vying for the 121 seats of for grabs, with the focus being on whether the ruling coalition — the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito — can retain a majority, according to a Kyodo News survey released Thursday.

Half of the upper chamber’s 242 seats are up for grabs every three years, of which 73 are elected in prefectural constituencies and 48 by proportional representation.

In the July poll, the ruling bloc has to get 64 seats in order to keep its majority in the chamber, while the opposition camp will have a majority if it wins 59 seats.

It is the first national election since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office in September. People are expected to show by their votes whether they back his agenda on such issues as changing the Constitution and addressing economic disparities.

The Democratic Party of Japan hopes to gain a majority in the Upper House and use it as a stepping stone to coming out on top of the ruling bloc in the next House of Representatives election.

The Upper House poll will be held July 22 and official campaigning begins July 5, unless the Diet session is extended past its last day, June 23, according to the Public Offices Election Law.

Among the constituencies holding elections, 29 single-seat districts are key to deciding the balance between the ruling and opposition camps, while the five three-seat constituencies are important for the smaller parties, including the Japanese Communist Party.

The LDP won 20 of the 48 proportional-representation seats in 2001, a period when then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi grew in popularity. Now the focus is whether the ruling party can keep those seats.

Of the two major parties, the LDP has decided on candidates for 47 constituencies and 33 names for its proportional-representation list, and the DPJ has 45 people ready to run in constituencies and 29 for the proportional-representation segment.

New Komeito plans to field five candidates in constituencies, the JCP 44, the Social Democratic Party nine, People’s New Party (Kokumin Shinto) four, and independents so far number 13 and there are nine for other minor parties. New Komeito plans eight for proportional-representation, the JCP five, the SDP five and People’s New Party 10.

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