Source: News Bharati English11 Jul 2016 11:05:50

Tokyo, July 11: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling coalition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has won a sweeping victory in elections to Japan’s upper house on Sunday. This move gave the Diet’s pro-revision forces the two-thirds majority needed to initiate Japan’s first constitutional referendum. Four parties in favor of constitutional revision, including the LDP-Komeito ruling bloc, won a combined 76 seats, adding to the current 88 held by pro-amendment forces in the uncontested half of the 242-seat Upper House.With all seats declared, Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic party and its allies won 77 out of the 78 seats they needed for a two-thirds majority, but there are also four independents who support a constitutional revision. Sunday’s election was also a historic moment for the nation’s 18- and 19-year-olds, who voted for the first time. This election will increase the grand total of pro-revision forces in the Upper House to a supermajority of 164, a critical benchmark that will bring Abe a huge step forward toward his longtime goal of amending the Constitution.

Kyodo News reported that, in response to Sunday’s poll results, Abe is planning a full-fledged reshuffle of his Cabinet as early as August. Voter turnout was estimated at 54.7 percent, higher than the 52.61 percent in the previous Upper House election, held in 2013, but the fourth-lowest for an Upper House election, Kyodo estimated.

The Democratic Party meanwhile ended up with 49 seats, falling from its pre-election strength of 60, while the Japanese Communist Party and Osaka Ishin no Kai increased their seat counts. “I’m relieved that we appear to have cleared our goal,” Abe said on a TV program Sunday night. On constitutional revision, Abe said Diet panels on the Constitution will decide how the charter should be revised, adding the issue will be put to a referendum afterward.

“The LDP has called for constitutional revision. But at the same time, neither the LDP nor the LDP-Komeito coalition has secured a two-thirds majority,” Abe said earlier. Abe has stated that it is his personal ambition to revise the national charter before his tenure ends in September 2018. Nationalists regard the Constitution as a humiliating holdover from Japan’s defeat in WWII, particularly the war-renouncing Article 9.

The four opposition parties fielded joint candidates in all 32 single-member constituencies to maximize their chances. Their failure may cause two things to happen: It might trigger calls for Okada to resign, and it might make the opposition parties reluctant to engage in such tie-ups in the future.