• Kyodo

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The July 10 House of Councilors election could put at least two-thirds of the Upper House in the hands of lawmakers amenable to amending the Constitution, opening the door to a national referendum on the issue, a Kyodo News survey indicated Thursday.

The ruling bloc of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito are likely to win at least 70 of the 121 seats up for grabs in the election, comfortably exceeding Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s stated target of 61, a majority of the contested seats.

The nationwide telephone poll conducted Wednesday and Thursday — in which 34,240 households nationwide were surveyed and 27,597 eligible voters responded — suggests that with the addition of Osaka Ishin no Kai and independents thought likely to support reform, Abe could amass sufficient support for his long-standing goal of amending the war-renouncing Constitution.

Based on the survey, the LDP could win close to 60 seats on its own. By combining at least 57 of the contested seats with the noncontested seats it already holds, the party could achieve a simple majority in the Upper House for the first time in 27 years.

But with more than half of the survey’s respondents still undecided with two weeks of campaigning left to go, the election outcome is far from certain.

An attempt to kick-start a constitutional amendment would need the approval of at least 162 of the Upper House’s 242 lawmakers.

The LDP, Komeito, Osaka Ishin and Nihon no Kokoro o Taisetsu ni suru To (Party for Japanese Kokoro) together hold 84 seats in the half of the house that will not be contested in this election, so they would need to win 78 of the contested seats to reach the two-thirds mark.

As a further buffer, at least four independents in noncontested seats are thought likely to support reform.

On the anti-reform side, the main opposition force, the Democratic Party, is expected to falter, winning between 25 and 30 seats, while the Japanese Communist Party is likely to gain ground, building on the three of the contested seats it already holds.

The Social Democratic Party is likely to win just one of the contested seats, down from the two it currently holds.

Voters will cast two ballots on July 10 — one to elect candidates in constituencies that will account for 73 of the 121 contested seats, and one to fill the other 48 seats with party list candidates under the proportional representation system.

Some 58.0 percent of respondents said they have not decided who will get their constituency vote, and 53.4 percent said they are still undecided about their proportional representation vote.

In all 32 of the electoral districts that elect just one seat, the Democratic Party, JCP, SDP and People’s Life Party have thrown their weight behind a single candidate to go head-to-head with the LDP candidate.

The survey puts the LDP ahead in 22 of these constituencies and suggests Democratic Party incumbents in some of them may struggle to retain their seats.

Komeito has put up a record seven candidates in constituencies. The survey suggests five of them are within the margin of victory and another is not far off.

Osaka Ishin is likely to win five seats through a combination of constituencies and proportional representation.

Among 18-and 19-year-old respondents, who are newly eligible to vote, some 54.2 percent said they are somewhat or completely uninterested in the election, while 45.1 percent said they are very or somewhat interested, the lowest proportion across age groups.

Across all age groups, 67.6 percent expressed interest in the race, down from 72.8 percent in Kyodo’s survey ahead of the last Upper House election in 2013, while 32.1 percent expressed a lack of interest.

Respondents’ level of interest was broadly correlated with their age, with respondents in their 60s most likely to be at least somewhat interested.

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