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Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012
Party strategists shift focus to seat counts
Political parties have turned their attention to the seat math for Sunday's Lower House election because how they fare will determine how much power they can later wield.
Altogether, 241 seats will constitute a majority in the 480-seat Lower House. If the two top opposition parties, the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito, do well, they will be able to return to power as a coalition. The LDP had 118 before the chamber was dissolved and New Komeito 21.
But polls say the LDP is poised to win a single-party majority. The more seats it wins, the more traction it will have in the more powerful lower chamber.
For example, any party that clinches a "comfortable majority" of 252 or more seats can pick the chairman and half of the members of all 17 standing committees in the Lower House. An "absolute majority" of at least 269 seats would give it the chairman and majorities in each committee.
In Sunday's election, the main focus is on whether partners the LDP and New Komeito will be able to secure 320 seats, or two-thirds of the chamber. This is because Article 59 of the Constitution states that any bill rejected by the House of Councilors can be passed by approving it again with a two-thirds vote in the Lower House.
New Komeito, which is shooting for 34 seats, is expected to win about 30. If the LDP increases its seat count to 290, the two-thirds target will be in range.
In the previous five Lower House elections held under the current system, which combines single-seat constituencies and proportional representation, the least number of seats won by the second major party was 113, including 52 in single-seat districts.
This time around, the ruling Democratic Party of Japan is expected to secure fewer than 100 seats, compared with 230 before the Lower House was dissolved.
For a "third force" party, such as Nippon Ishin No Kai (Japan Restoration Party), a realistic target would be 51 seats. This would allow it to submit bills, budget allocations and no-confidence motions.