TOKYO -- The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is highly likely to lose seats in the House of Representatives election from its pre-election strength of 276 seats but is expected to maintain a majority in the 465-seat chamber along with its coalition partner Komeito, a Mainichi Shimbun opinion poll and other data have shown.
The Mainichi studied the early stage of the campaigns for the Oct. 31 vote through a special opinion survey conducted on Oct. 19 and 20 coupled with its own coverage of the situation.
The research results have shown that 63 constituencies are likely to see close races, and the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP) may significantly rack up seats if the situation in those constituencies turns in its favor.
In the opinion poll, 30% of respondents did not make clear their voting attitude in single-seat constituencies, and the circumstances may change depending on their moves.
The LDP is gaining the upper hand in all single-seat constituencies in the prefectures of Aomori, Yamagata, Gunma, Toyama, Fukui, Shiga, Shimane, Tottori, Yamaguchi and Kochi. However, the party is struggling in constituencies in Osaka, Niigata and other prefectures, making it difficult for the party to secure the 218 single-seat constituency seats it won in the previous lower house election in 2017. There is also a high possibility the LDP will lose seats in proportional representation, where it secured 66 seats in the 2017 contest.
The LDP's junior coalition partner Komeito is emerging dominant in six of the nine constituencies where the party has fielded its candidates, but is seeing neck-and-neck races in two constituencies. It remains uncertain if the party can secure its 29 pre-election seats including those in proportional representation.
While the LDP and Komeito appear likely to secure the 233-seat threshold to continue to hold a majority in the lower chamber, it remains to be seen whether the ruling parties can win a 261-seat absolute stable majority, which would allow them to preside over all of the lower house's standing committees while securing a majority in each committee.
If the two parties fail to win an absolute stable majority, it would be the first setback of its kind for the LDP-Komeito coalition government since former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe returned to power in 2012 to form his second administration.
The CDP, meanwhile, is eyeing increasing its number of seats from the 110 it had before the election was called. The positive outlook comes after the party made adjustments with the fellow opposition Japanese Communist Party (JCP), the Democratic Party for the People (DPFP), Reiwa Shinsengumi and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) to field unified candidates in 213 constituencies. However, veteran CDP members including former Prime Minister Naoto Kan and former Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Banri Kaieda have yet to fully cement support from voters in their respective constituencies.
While the CDP has boasted its strong support base in Hokkaido and central Japan's Tokai region, some constituencies in those areas are witnessing head-to-head races, leaving the circumstances unpredictable.
The JCP is having a strong showing in proportional representation. The party is leading the race in one electoral district in Okinawa Prefecture, and chances are high that the party's overall seats will exceed its pre-election strength of 12.
The DPFP is struggling in the race, with a high likelihood it will barely maintain its pre-election eight seats. The minor opposition Reiwa Shinsengumi and SDP are both having clear prospects for securing at least one seat each, possibly maintaining their pre-election strength.
The conservative opposition Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party, JIP), which is aiming to form a "third force," is drawing significantly greater support. The party is enjoying the upper hand in single-seat constituencies in its home prefecture of Osaka. While the party is facing an uphill battle in single-seat constituencies outside Osaka, it looks likely to boost its seats through proportional representation. In all, the JIP may win a little over 30 seats -- a threefold increase from its pre-election strength of 11 seats.
Compared to the three preceding general elections in 2012, 2014 and 2017, in which the LDP marked landslide victories, the ongoing campaigns are observing more constituencies mired in close battles, leaving a certain margin for the number of prospective winners among LDP and other parties' candidates.
(Japanese original by Yoshitaka Koyama, Political News Department)