Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would not say Saturday if he will step down if the ruling parties fail to win a majority of the seats up for grabs in the July 10 Upper House election.
“We will win at the polls and, by all means, the ruling bloc will secure a majority” of the seats at stake. “I’m obsessed with that,” Abe said in Kumamoto Prefecture when reporters asked whether he would resign if that target is not attained. Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner, Komeito, form the ruling bloc.
In announcing on Wednesday the date for the House of Councilors election, Abe set forth a new goal for the number of seats he hoped the ruling coalition will win. He fixed that new target at a majority of the 121 seats up for grabs.
That target is higher than simply maintaining a majority in the Upper House, which Abe earlier said he aimed at. Going into the election the LDP held 115 seats and Komeito 20 seats in the 242-seat chamber.
Half those 242 seats are contested every three years, resulting in staggered six-year terms. Simply to maintain majority control of the Upper House, the LDP and Komeito will need to win at least 46 of the 121 seats up for grabs, to add to the 76 they hold among the chamber’s seats not being contested in July.
Although the official campaign period starts June 22, the ruling and opposition parties were already engaging in a war of words Saturday, the first weekend since the election date was set.
Abe told reporters in Kumamoto that the election would renew the public mandate for his Abenomics policy of unprecedented monetary easing, expanded government spending and structural reforms, which together are meant to lift Japan out of deflation.
“This election is to decide whether to move ahead with Abenomics or to return to a situation we saw under the Democratic Party of Japan administration,” Abe said.
LDP Secretary-General Sadakazu Tanigaki told a party gathering in Osaka that the ruling parties “must win” against the main opposition Democratic Party and the Japanese Communist Party, which are forging a rare alliance with other opposition parties in fielding candidates in electoral districts nationwide.
In Mie Prefecture, Democratic Party leader Katsuya Okada blasted Abe’s economic policies, pointing to the yen’s strength — which hurts exporters’ profits — as evidence of the failure of Abenomics.
Okada also warned that Abe’s “real goal” is to grab a two-thirds majority by the ruling parties and certain opposition parties, thereby positioning him to amend the Constitution for the first time ever.
“This is what we must prevent at all costs,” Okada said. But he did not indicate how many seats his party, which was formed through the merger of the DPJ and another opposition party in March, will aim to win.
In Kochi, Akira Koike, head of the JCP Secretariat, also said the main focus of the election is whether voters will empower Abe to move ahead with amending the Constitution, possibly by revising the war-renouncing Article 9.