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House elections pivotal for beleaguered Prime Minister

Date Posted: 2007-07-13

Candidates for the July 29th House of Councilors elections have formally registered, and ruling and opposition parties are calling the election crucial for survival—or defeat—of Shinzo Abe.

Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party is teamed with Komeito, promoting the Prime Minister’s achievements during his ten months in office, while the Opposition Party is touting the scandals and failures of his regime. Abe’s been wracked by scandals involving key cabinet ministers, including the loss of pension premiums records. Political figures are also divided over Abe’s plan for revising the country’s constitution.

A total of 121 seats are at stake in the election; 73 represent prefectural constituencies, while another 48 are assigned by proportional representation. To maintain a hold on power, Abe’s party bloc must win 64 seats. Upper House of Councilors are elected to six-year terms, with half chosen by elections every three years.

On Okinawa, the LDP/Komeito candidate is incumbent Junshiro Nishime, who won the post after his now-challenger and then Councilor Keiko Itokazu resigned her seat to unsuccessfully run for Okinawa governor. She is backed by opposition parties that include the Democratic Party of Japan, the communists and socialist parties. The two are going head-to-head on the pension scandal and constitution issues, as well as how to handle the proposed move of the unpopular Futenma Marine Corps Air Station from Ginowan to northern Okinawa.

Four are vying for a seat under the proportional representation system. The LDP candidate is 48-year-old Yasuto Nakasone, vice chairman of the Japan Senior Citizens Welfare Council. The eldest candidate, 72-year-oldTakushin Yamauchi of the Democratic Party of Japan, is a former Prefecture vice governor. The chairwoman of Okinawa Prefecture Women’s Society, 58-year-old Emiko Maeda, is backed by the Japan Communist Party, while the People’s New Party is represented by Hiroshi Goya, 48. He is a former Okinawa Prefecture Assembly member.

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