As Japan’s political parties hatch battle plans for the upper house election next month, a well-organized campaign apparatus likely will be key to victories in proportional representation voting.
Elections are expensive, with putting a name on the proportional representation ballot alone costing 6 million yen ($57,700). Mindful of the price, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party came up with a record-low 25 candidates for proportional representation. The strategy is to be lean and mean by focusing on winning.
The party fielded 29 candidates in the previous upper house election in 2013, but the seven lowest-ranking candidates each won fewer than 50,000 votes. By some estimates, candidates need to receive 1 million votes, including votes for their parties, to get elected via proportional representation. An LDP official said that even if the party fields many candidates, the number of extra votes it can attract is limited.
Some think the LDP limited the number of candidates in consideration of junior coalition partner Komeito. Running a large number of LDP candidates could draw votes that otherwise would go to Komeito.
Komeito is fielding key candidates by dividing the nation into six regions, part of a strategy to secure seats by distributing votes evenly among its candidates. The party officially endorsed 11 additional proportional representation candidates Thursday. Having more candidates brings greater exposure for the party in the form of campaign vehicles in the streets and election broadcasts on TV.
The main opposition Democratic Party plans to run 22 candidates for proportional representation seats, two more than in the previous contest. Twelve of these candidates hail from unions under the umbrella of the Japanese Trade Union Confederation, or Rengo, the nation’s largest labor organization. Though the party is relying on organized labor, Rengo’s influence is waning, with a labor group comprised of unions from major chemical manufacturers effectively bolting the organization.
The Japanese Communist Party is expected to field 42 proportional representation candidates, more than double the tally from last time. The Communists, Democrats and other opposition parties agreed to avoid having their candidates compete against one another in single-seat districts, and so the Communist Party will not run its own candidate in any single-seat district except in Kagawa Prefecture. By running its candidates for proportional representation seats instead, the party hopes to remain active in regions across the country.
The Initiatives from Osaka party hopes to increase its proportional representation seats by fielding former lawmakers from the lower and upper houses. For other smaller parties such as the Social Democratic Party, the People’s Life Party, the Party for Japanese Kokoro and the New Renaissance Party, proportional representation will hold the key to survival since they are expected to struggle in election districts.
Half of the seats in the Diet’s upper chamber will be up for grabs, and 73 of these will be decided through voting in election districts. The other 48 will be filled through proportional representation, in which voters write on the ballot either the name of a party or a candidate from a national list and each party wins seats proportional to the number of votes it receives in a single, nationwide district.