The result of election of the House of Councilors shows that two-thirds of the parliamentary seats are occupied by lawmakers who favor amendment of the Peace Constitution in the same way as in the House of Representatives. It is for the first time in the history that in both of the Houses these forces win the 2/3 majority. The extraordinary session of the Diet is to begin late September when amendment will be debated on a full scale. Let’s reexamine the election results.
OVER 80% VOTERS DO NOT KNOW ABOUT MEANING OF TWO-THIRDS OF DIET SEATS
Two numerical figures were significant in the election: they were 74 and 53. The figure 74 means the number of seats that the four political parties, including ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the Komeito, can control 2/3 of the Upper House seats, if four lawmakers who actively support revision and do not face the 2016 election challenge. The other 53 means the number of opposing parliamentary seats. In other words, four opposition parties, including the Democratic Party, might occupy one-third of the Diet’s seats, if one lawmaker is added who opposes amendment, remaining in the House incumbent in this election.
That means the focal point in the July election was whether 2/3 of the Upper House seats would be occupied by the pro-amendment candidates. The 2/3 ratio equals to 162 seats in the Upper House (of the total 242 seats), the number necessary to propose amendment in the parliament - the critical point. How was the electorate aware of this importance?
Why has Discrepancy come out?
During July 2 and 4, when the election campaign was approaching to the end, two journalists from the Kochi Shimbun newspaper asked a question to 100 voters walking in the street: ‘attention is paid to a figure 2/3 in the election campaign. Do you know what does it mean?’
Eighty-three people replied they did not know about it at all, which is over 80%. Seventeen people answered they recognize the meaning. Similar result was seen in the survey conducted a day before voting by the Kanagawa Shimbun newspaper.
Pro-amendment lawmakers won over 2/3 of the seas in the election, but that does not mean voters favor ‘constitution amendment under the Abe government’. Public opinion polls explain the fact, too. A poll held by the Mainichi Shimbun on July 3 and 4 shows that the rate of those who favored amendment was 28.9% and of those who opposes was 40.5%. The rest 30.6% of people were of those who did not understand well, those who did not answer and those who could not reply yes or no.
Another survey held by the Kyodo News on June 12 and 13 before the election announcement shows, respectively, 35.9%, 48.2% and 15.9%.
The election ends in occupying 2/3 of the seats by pro-amendment forces, while the majority of people are against amendment under the Abe government. Why does a discrepancy come out?
Prime Minister Abe repeatedly stated before the election announcement that ‘the Constitution Research Council would start discussing amendment from the extraordinary Diet session which will begin in September’, but later he intentionally blurred the contesting point. The Komeito, the LDP’s ally of the coalition, did not even touch on the Constitution in the party’s pledges. The ruling parties were successful in concealing their intention, while the opposition failed in marking the major point clearly.
People’s Right to Know
Responsibility is attributable to mass media, too. According to a research company, length of broadcasting hours of TV programs on the election decreased by 30%, compared with that of the previous Upper House election of 2013, in the Tokyo metropolitan area where six terrestrial TV stations, including NHK, operate. The drop was especially high for news programs and talk and variety shows, which were shorter by 60% in hours.
Responsibility of voters should be reviewed, too. The electorate has a duty to know about the significance of election to vote for themselves and for future generations. Writer Hosaka Masayasu says that ‘democracy is followed by his brother, fascism’. He points out that ‘now the brother waits for a moment when democracy becomes exhausted’.
The opposition parties were united in the Upper House election, leaving positive results, too. Now the campaign is going on to elect Tokyo Governor. A victory in the election will lead to a hopeful future, preventing democracy from deteriorating.
July 26, 2016