the House of Councillors election held on July 11 the ruling
coalition led by the Democratic Party of Japan lost its majority
in the upper house. Of the 121 contested seats, half of the
total 242 seats in the House of Councillors, the DPJ gained
only 44, not enough to secure a majority in the upper house
even when added to its uncontested seats.
The members of the House of Councillors have six-year
terms, and an election is held every three years for half
of the total of 242 seats. Of the 121 contested seats,
73 are in prefecture-based electoral districts and 48 are
in the nationwide proportional-representation portion,
which is linked to the total votes received by each party.
Elections for the House of Councillors do not usually decide
the fate of an administration as long as one party or a coalition
has a majority in the House of Representatives, which is
granted more legal power by the Constitution. The present
ruling coalition holds an overwhelming majority in the lower
house, so there will be no change of government this time.
The DPJ-led coalition will remain in power, although it is
expected to face much more difficulty in Diet management
from now on.
In response to the DPJ's loss of a majority in the House
of Councillors, RENGO General Secretary Hiroyuki Nagumo said
in a statement on the day after the election that it was
indeed regrettable (for RENGO) that the election had resulted
in such an outcome. He said that in the election for the
electoral districts, RENGO had recommended 55 candidates,
of whom 29 had gained seats. In the proportional-representation
vote, RENGO backed 11 candidates from RENGO affiliates and
fought with all its might. As a result, they were able to
win 10 seats. However, the number of votes gained in the
names of the 11 candidates substantially decreased from 1.82
million in the last election to 1.59 million this time. The
total number of votes gained by the DPJ in the proportional-representation
poll also decreased, ending in an unsatisfactory result.
Touching on some of the possible reasons for the loss, General
Secretary Nagumo observed that although some steady achievements
had been made since the change of government last summer,
as seen in the child-raising allowance for all children,
effectively free public high school education, the expansion
of employment insurance coverage, and other measures, voters
were not so impressed by the way the government of former
Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama had handled the issue of the
relocation of the US Marine Corps Futenma Air Station in
Okinawa and the problem of "politics and money." As a result,
the approval rating for the DPJ-led government had plunged.
General Secretary Nagumo also recognized that although the
cabinet of Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who took over from Hatoyama,
initially had a higher rating, this was an expression of
people's hopes for politics that "puts people's lives first." He
then observed critically that one of the main reasons why
the approval rating for the Kan cabinet dropped rapidly after
the election campaign began was that voters were dissatisfied
with the proposal made by Prime Minister Kan to raise the
consumption tax and his response thereafter.
Taking the outcome of the election seriously, General Secretary
Nagumo requested the Kan government and the DPJ to go back
to the starting point of "putting people's lives first" and
to implement the policies promised in last year's election
manifesto. He also expressed strong hope that the DPJ would
unite and gain the trust of the people through government
management based on sincere debate and consensus formation.
Finally, General Secretary Nagumo promised that RENGO would
give all-out support to the DPJ government through close
relations and cooperation so that important bills carried
over to the next session of the Diet, including a bill to
revise the Worker Dispatch Law, and other important ones
abandoned in the last regular session of the Diet can be
passed as early as possible in order to build a "society
of hope and security."