Almost half those planning to run in next month’s pivotal Upper House election oppose Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push to revise the war-renouncing Constitution, a Kyodo News survey has found.
The survey also said more than 60 percent of the likely candidates for the July 10 contest believe revitalizing the economy should be the nation’s top priority.
Kyodo sent questionnaires to 351 prospective candidates. Of the 309 who responded, 46.6 percent said they oppose the Abe administration’s vows to revise the national charter, comments widely seen as referring to his goal of scrapping war-renouncing Article 9. About 34.6 percent said they support the move.
The survey revealed a split — even within the ruling bloc — on the divisive issue.
While 72.1 percent of the prospective candidates from Abe’s conservative Liberal Democratic Party support revision, not one from Komeito, its lay Buddhist-backed coalition partner, voiced support for the move. Among prospective Komeito candidates, 69.2 percent declined to state a position and 30.8 percent said they were opposed.
As a party, Komeito has proposed “adding” what it calls new ideas and clauses to the Constitution, a move apparently designed to distance itself from Abe’s more aggressive stance. Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi has said revising the supreme law “will not be a campaign issue” in the momentous election.
Among likely opposition candidates, 98.0 percent of those from the Democratic Party and all candidates fielded by the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party oppose revising the Constitution under Abe.
Surprisingly, just 28 percent of the potential candidates from Osaka Ishin no Kai, which has supported Abe’s revision efforts, backed his push.
The survey also showed that while the economy was at the forefront of candidates’ minds, constitutional revision appeared to be an afterthought.
In a multiple-choice question about post-election priorities, 60.8 percent said economic and employment measures were tops. This was followed by 40.5 percent who cited welfare reform as key, and 38.8 who said addressing the nation’s low birthrate and bolstering child-rearing were top issues.
A mere 11.7 percent called constitutional revision a priority issue.
Regarding the prime minister’s namesake Abenomics growth policy, 64.7 percent said it failed to improve the economy, and less than half that figure — 30.7 percent — praised the program, which uses drastic monetary easing, public spending and vows of reform in an effort to boost growth and private-sector investment.
Asked about Abe’s recent decision to again postpone the second stage of the consumption tax hike by 2½ years to October 2019, just 49.2 percent of the potential LDP candidates and 46.2 percent of Komeito candidates expressed approval. Among candidates in the main opposition force, the Democratic Party, about 75.5 percent of prospective candidates voiced approval.
As for the long-delayed plan to relocate U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa Prefecture, 88.5 percent of LDP candidates backed the program.
Among DP candidates, just 14.3 percent supported the plan and 61.2 percent opposed it.
On energy policy, 44.0 percent of all respondents endorsed restarting nuclear reactors and 40.5 percent did not.