by Atsushi Ebihara
OSAKA, July 18 (Xinhua) -- On the run-up to the House of Councilors election on Sunday, a respected Japanese professor said that the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its partner, the New Komei Party, would secure an overwhelming majority that would reflect the voters' high expectations that the monetary easing-dependent growth policies of the government are good for the country.
In the 23rd election to the Upper House of the Diet, 121 members, or half of the house, will be elected under the constituency and proportional representation systems.
In a recent interview with Xinhua, Masahiro Kobori, a professor of law at Ritsumeikan University in the western Japanese city of Kyoto, said that "economic recovery," which Japan has failed to create over the past two decades, would be the most important issue in Sunday's elections.
The professor stressed that since there is widespread hope among the Japanese people that the government will be able to revive the sluggish economy, which deteriorated further due to the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, the current economic policies called "Abenomics" may work as a temporary "prescription" to help speed up the circulation of money in the economy.
"The current easy-money policies, strongly pushed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, seem to have brought higher stock prices over the past few months, but voters would rather wait (to spend their money) until optimism about the economy spreads to people who are not involved with stocks," Kobori said.
He said that Japan experienced periods of high stock prices several times in the last 20 years but these did not bring about the expected benefits to ordinary Japanese. "Therefore, the main issue at the ballot box will be whether voters have faith in the latest economic ideas," Kobori added.
But the professor warned that voters, especially younger people, would be paying more attention to other social and economic policies that the LDP will push, such as deregulation in the labor market and the business environment as Japan moves to join in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement negotiations.
"For example, the LDP, plus some of the opposition, like the Osakabased Japan Restoration Party and Your Party, have shown a clear stance in favor of the TPP, while people's opinions are divided over the issue, particularly in the rural areas," Kobori said.
Kobori said that constitutional reform would be another key issue in the upcoming polls, adding that it would be interesting how the LDP, which has asserted they need to first amend Article 96 of the Constitution, can compete against other parties' opposition to partial or full constitutional revisions.
Article 96 states that all constitutional amendments be initiated by the Diet if two-thirds or more of all members of the Upper and Lower houses vote for it.
"The LDP, proposing its draft constitution with nationalistic flair, now insists on relaxing pre-conditions for constitutional amendments prior to seeking their ultimate goal of changing Article 9, which prohibits Japan from any acts of war, so that the country's Self-Defense Forces can be deployed on a more global scale alongside U.S. forces," Kobori said.
But Kobori said the feasibility of such a scenario is sketchy since senior politicians, such as those in the LDP's partner, the New Komei Party, have admitted that the time is not ripe for this constitutional matter.
Another major issue that is being scrutinized, Kobori said, is the stance of political parties on nuclear power plant operations amid safety concerns following the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant disaster, adding that the LDP will be more proactive in resuming operations, most of which have been still suspended since the 2011 earthquake.
"How many seats the LDP and opposition win in the election may be a barometer of support for resuming nuclear power generation," Kobori said.
According to Kobori, because the major opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) has lost public support after the Lower House election held in December last year, and other opposition parties, except the Japanese Communist Party (JCP), cannot provide voters with concrete policies as "suitable" alternatives to those of the LDP, the ruling party and its partner, the New Komei Party, will win 70-80 seats in the election, ensuring them a majority in both houses of the Diet.
The professor noted that "ending the DPJ vs. LDP structure" after the upcoming national election also means the end of the " twisted Diet" in which the DPJ has a majority in the Upper House while the LDP has an overwhelming majority in the Lower House, thus slowing the passage of legislation.
"There is even a possibility the LDP will have a working majority in the Upper House since the people who had trusted the DPJ administration to speed up restructuring of the old regime which has hampered the aging Japanese society from steady redevelopment were so disappointed with the achievements of the DPJ, which could not produce an economic recovery, plus other issues including diplomatic ones with neighboring Asian countries, "Kobori said.