Japan's LDP, partner on track for two-thirds majority in polls

TOKYO Thu Dec 13, 2012 3:09am EST

Japan's main opposition Liberal Democratic Party's (LDP) leader and former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe makes a speech during a campaign for the December 16 lower house election in Ageo, north of Tokyo December 11, 2012. REUTERS/Shohei Miyano

Japan's main opposition Liberal Democratic Party's (LDP) leader and former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe makes a speech during a campaign for the December 16 lower house election in Ageo, north of Tokyo December 11, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Shohei Miyano

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TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its smaller ally could win a two-thirds majority in a December 16 election for parliament's lower house, a survey showed on Thursday, a result that would help break the policy deadlock plaguing the world's third-biggest economy.

Kyodo news agency's survey of more than 60,000 voters showed that former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's LDP could win about 295 seats in the 480-member chamber while its long-time coalition partner, the New Komeito, was likely to win close to 30 seats.

A two-thirds majority would allow the lower house to override the upper chamber, where no party has a majority and which can block legislation. That would help break a stalemate that has plagued successive governments since 2007.

Abe, who quit suddenly in 2007 after a troubled year in office, is promising to press the Bank of Japan to radically ease monetary policy to beat deflation and a strong yen.

He has also promised to stand tough against China over disputed isles in the East China Sea and wants to loosen the limits of Japan's 65-year-old pacifist constitution on the military while recasting what conservatives see as overly apologetic accounts of Japan's wartime past.

The newly launched, right-leaning Japan Restoration Party, founded by popular Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto and now headed by outspoken nationalist Shintaro Ishihara, looks set to win fewer than 50 seats, the poll showed.

Early predictions had suggested that the LDP might fall short of a majority even with the New Komeito's help, forcing it to turn to the JRP or other parties to form a government.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's Democratic Party of Japan, which swept to power in 2009 to end more than 50 years of almost non-stop rule by the LDP, may end up with as few as 60 seats, the Kyodo survey showed.

Kyodo said that about 40 percent of voters were still undecided with just days to go.

Analysts said some voters could decide not to vote for the LDP at the last minute out of fear that they would win by too large a margin, but the general trend was unlikely to shift direction.

"It's a much better than 50-50 chance that the LDP will win a majority on its own," said Chuo University political science professor Steven Reed.

A recent legal change prevents the opposition from taking the budget hostage by refusing to pass a funding bill, so the new government will find it easier to implement spending plans regardless of the size of its majority, and it can pressure the BOJ without enacting legislation.

Other legislation except the budget and treaties, however, must be approved by both houses of parliament. A bill rejected by the upper house can then be enacted if two-thirds of the lower chamber vote in favor.

Kyodo surveyed more than 63,000 voters in about a half of 300 single-member constituencies. The other 180 members come from proportional representation blocks.

(Editing by Linda Sieg; Editing by Ken Wills)

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