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Japan Poll: Winners and Losers
[Commentary] Even a bigwig of the ruling LDP is routed by an opposition rookie
Hisane Masaki (hmasaki)     Print Article 
Published 2007-08-01 09:40 (KST)   
At stake in Sunday's election were half of the 242 seats in the House of Councilors. Of the 121 seats contested, 73 were elected in prefectural electoral districts and the remaining 48 through proportional representation. A total of 377 candidates ran for the 121 seats -- 218 in single or multi-seat prefectural electoral districts and 159 in proportional representation.

Roughly 100 million Japanese citizens aged 20 or older were eligible to vote. Voter turnout was 58.6 percent, two percentage points higher than in the previous upper house election in 2004.

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The DPJ garnered 60 seats -- 40 in prefectural electoral districts and 20 in proportional representation. The number of DPJ's seats in the upper house, including those that were not up for election this time, rose to 109 from a pre-election total of 81. The LDP won 37 seats -- 23 in prefectural electoral districts and 14 in proportional representation. The number of the LDP's seats in the upper house, including those that were not up for election, declined to 83 from a pre-election total of 110.

The LDP's coalition partner, New Komeito, also suffered a loss of three seats in the chamber, from 23 to 20. Meanwhile, the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party also both lost seats in the upper house, from nine to seven and from six to five, respectively. The People's New Party (PNP) maintained its pre-election strength of four seats. New Party Nippon got one seat. The number of independents increased from seven to 13.

As a result, the ruling camp saw the total number of its seats in the upper house, including those of allied independents, plummet to 105 from a pre-election total of 134, while the opposition camp boosted its strength in the upper house to 137 seats from a pre-election total of 108 seats.

Non-affiliated voters account for nearly half of all voters. How they vote has a decisive effect on the election results. In urban areas, where there are many non-affiliated voters, the DPJ gained more support from those voters than the LDP. The DPJ performed well even in rural areas, the traditional stronghold for the LDP.

During the election campaign, Ozawa went to rural areas in a strategy aimed at appealing to farmers and others who feel left behind by the free market reforms initiated by Koizumi and inherited by Abe. The DPJ's upper house election manifesto featured "three promises" to settle the government pension fiasco, boost child-care measures and provide financial aid to farmers.

The 37 seats the LDP secured on Sunday is the party's second-worst upper house election result in history. The worst upper house election result for the LDP came in 1989, when the party won only 36 seats. Then Prime Minister Sosuke Uno stepped down following the poll, after only 69 days in office. It was the first time that the LDP had lost a majority in the upper house.

The previous second-worst upper house election result for the LDP came in 1998, when the party won 44 seats. Then Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto stepped down following the poll. Hashimoto's successor, Keizo Obuchi, formed a coalition government with the now defunct Liberal Party, led by Ozawa, now the DPJ leader, in early 1999 and brought New Komeito into the coalition later that year, giving back control of the upper house to the ruling camp.

Symbolizing the major setback for the LDP is Toranosuke Katayama's loss to a 48-year-old female rookie from the DPJ in his Okayama constituency. Katayama is the No. 2 man in the LDP's upper house caucus and a leader of the party's campaign strategy.

Meanwhile, former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori, who ran on the PNP ticket, was not elected. The 68-year-old, who has Peruvian-Japanese dual citizenship, sought asylum in Japan after his government collapsed amid a scandal seven years ago. Fujimori is now under house arrest in Chile, facing extradition to Peru on human rights abuse and corruption charges.
Hisane Masaki is a Tokyo-based journalist, commentator and scholar on international politics and economy. This is the second part of an expanded version of an article that originally appeared on Asia Times. The third part will come later.
©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Hisane Masaki

  Linked Story - Japan: A Period of Political Uncertainty...
  Linked Story - Japan Vote: Insecurity and Distrust...

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