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Abe’s LDP-led bloc likely to prevail in Sunday’s election as Koike’s camp struggles for second place: Kyodo poll

Kyodo, JIJI

The Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner, Komeito, are poised to retain a two-thirds majority in the Lower House in Sunday’s election, a Kyodo News survey shows — a result that will let Prime Minister Shinzo Abe advance his goal of constitutional revision.

A two-thirds supermajority is significant because the Constitution — which the LDP has sought to change since the party’s inception in 1955 — requires at least two-thirds of lawmakers in both houses of the Diet to approve a proposed amendment before it can be put to a nationwide referendum.

The LDP is forecast to pick up about 220 of the single-seat districts and take the most proportional representation seats, giving it a total of about 280, according to the survey, released Tuesday. The party had 290 seats before the chamber was dissolved.

Komeito’s forecast 30 seats should give the coalition about 310 seats — precisely two-thirds of the now 465-seat chamber.

Most major parties are open to constitutional amendment but differ on how to handle the war-renouncing Article 9 and other issues.

Kibo no To (Party of Hope) has slipped in the polls during the campaign. Its prospects are best in districts where it is fielding candidates from the Democratic Party who held the seats before the Lower House was dissolved on Sept. 28. Kibo no To is on the defensive in all of the single-seat districts in Tokyo despite party leader Yuriko Koike’s popularity in the metropolis.

Meanwhile, some LDP members aim to submit the party’s draft proposal for constitutional amendments to the Diet by the end of this year, sources said.

“It’s natural for a political party to implement its policy pledges if it wins a public mandate in an election,” said a member of the LDP’s Headquarters for the Promotion of Revision to the Constitution.

In its policy platform, Komeito calls for discussions on adding a clause on environmental rights to the Constitution and one extending lawmakers’ terms in emergencies when elections can’t be held.

Kibo no To’s platform calls for promoting discussions on constitutional amendments, including Article 9, and decentralization.

Nippon Ishin no Kai proposes free education and the reorganization of the 47 prefectures into several larger provinces.

Discussions on constitutional amendments between the ruling and opposition parties are viewed as likely to start with issues related to local autonomy, free education and extending lawmakers’ terms during crises.

It remains uncertain whether discussions on revisions to Article 9 will move forward soon.

Komeito has showed a cautious stance on the proposal to clarify the constitutional rationale for the Self-Defense Forces.

“We would end up in a mess in a national referendum” on constitutional revisions unless there is broad public support, said Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi in a television program on Tuesday.

In the Kyodo poll, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, formed in recent weeks to take in the liberal wing of the moribund Democratic Party, now has a chance of coming out on top among the opposition parties ahead of Kibo no To, which took in the DP’s conservative wing.

The telephone survey of 120,000 randomly selected eligible voters nationwide was conducted between Sunday and Tuesday.

The projections could change in the campaign’s final days, with some 40 percent of voters still undecided on which candidate or party they will vote for.

An initial burst of excitement over the “reform conservative” Kibo no To appears to have ebbed. It is now projected to win about 50 seats, having slipped in the polls since campaigning began on Oct. 10.

The CDP is on track to win nearly 50 seats, having tripled its support since before the start of the campaign.

The Lower House had 475 seats before it was dissolved, but shrank by 10 to a postwar low of 465 through electoral reforms.

Voters cast one ballot for a candidate in their single-seat district and one for a party. Single-seat districts account for 289 of the seats in the Lower House. The remaining 176 seats will be allocated through 11 regional proportional representation blocks.