What will the Japanese upper house elections mean for Abe?

Japanese Prime Minister and leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Shinzo Abe raises his hands with his party candidate Keizo Takemi (L) at a campaign for the July 21 Upper House election in Tokyo on Sunday 7, July, 2019. (REUTERS/Yoshio Tsunoda)

Author: Ko Maeda, University of North Texas

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling coalition will likely lose seats in the upper house elections on 21 July 2019. This is simply because it won big six years ago. In 2013, Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) won 65 out of the 121 seats up for election — the biggest win by any party since 1992 — and its coalition partner Komeito won 11. Repeating this level of success will be difficult given that the Abe cabinet’s approval rating is much lower than it was in 2013 and the LDP won 55 seats in 2016.

Japan’s upper house renews half of its 242 seats every three years as its members serve six-year terms. But it will add 3 more seats after these elections which will elect 124 members and the total will go up to 248 in 2022. The elections are conducted in a two-tiered system and each voter casts two ballots. One ballot is for a nation-wide proportional representation (PR) tier that fills 50 members. The other is for a nominal tier that elects 74 seats from 45 districts, where the number of members elected from each district varies from one to six, roughly based on its population.

The LDP currently has a slim single-party majority in the upper house that it will likely lose in the coming elections. It should be easy for the LDP–Komeito coalition to maintain its majority — together the two parties need to win 53 out of 124 seats. In the absence of a shock event before the election, Abe’s position will remain secure and he will become the longest-serving prime minister in the country’s history on 20 November.

Yet the so-called ‘Year of the Boar effect’ poses an ominous challenge for the LDP. The LDP’s vote share …continue reading