As the Upper House election campaign enters its final phase, polls suggest that the Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner Komeito are facing a tough battle. But as Democratic Party of Japan leader Ichiro Ozawa has said, the results will not be known until the ballot boxes are opened. In fact, about 40 percent of those polled recently by Kyodo News have not yet decided how they will cast their votes.

The Kyodo poll shows that more than 80 percent of those queried — a record number — are interested in the election in which half of the chamber’s 242 seats will be contested. Clearly a large number of voters want to pass judgment on the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which took power in September 2006.

The fiasco involving hard-to-identify pension premium payments records, scandals over Cabinet members’ political funds records, gaffes by Cabinet members and the lack of earthquake preparedness at nuclear-power plants have raised doubts in voters’ minds over the government’s ability to govern and its trustworthiness.

In addition to the administration’s performance, constitutional revision is also an important issue. Although the LDP’s campaign pledge makes the issue the party’s top priority and Mr. Abe has been calling for a “departure from the postwar regime,” only the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party have been vocal in their campaigns about the constitutional issue from the viewpoint of protecting the war-renouncing Article 9. It is vital that voters discern the parties’ and candidates’ attitudes toward the Constitution. It must not be forgotten that under the national referendum law, the Diet can initiate constitutional revisions after three years.

The election results will not only affect the fate of Mr. Abe and the DPJ’s Mr. Ozawa; it will have a great impact on the future course of Japan. Voters need to carefully consider the pledges of the parties and candidates, and decide which ones are worthy of their support.

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