TOKYO – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s political coalition won on Monday the partial legislative elections to the upper house of parliament, though it failed to secure the number of seats needed to push forward the constitutional reform it was hoping for, according to results released on Monday.
Japanese citizens had voted Sunday to elect half of the House of Councillors, whose member serve for six-year terms and have fewer legislative functions than members of the House of Representatives, of which Abe is a member.
Out of the 124 seats at stake on Sunday, Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party and its political ally, the Buddhist Komeito party, won a total of 71, giving that coalition a majority of lawmakers in the upper house (141 out of its total 245 seats)..
However, taking into account the seats that were not renewed, independents and another political party that has supported the constitutional reform, Abe has secured 160 seats, four less than required to pass the amendment.
Abe’s goal is to amend the constitution – which was approved after World War II – to change its pacifist character so that the country’s Self-Defense Forces can play a more active role.
The amendment must be approved by both houses and put to a referendum.
Although in the lower house, Abe and his allies do have two-thirds of the vote, in the upper it failed to achieve that result in Sunday’s election.
Abe said at a press conference after the results came out that the objective was not to win two-thirds in the upper house but to maintain stability, adding that given that said goal had been met, there would be talks to try to obtain the support needed to push the constitutional reform.
The prime minister said he wanted to demonstrate his own leadership to be able to discuss the reform and make a draft that can secure two-thirds of the votes between the ruling and opposition legislators.
Voter turnout on Sunday was the second-lowest since the end of World War II, as only 48.8 percent of the electoral census went to the polls, slightly higher than the record low of 44.52 percent turnout in the 1995 elections.