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Ruling DPJ Loses Majority in House of Councillors

In 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."

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