Official campaigning is underway in Japan's Upper House election set for July 21. It may prove to be a barometer of public opinion on the current administration's six and a half years in power.
The ruling coalition consists of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party and its junior partner, Komeito.
Political leaders are taking to the streets across the country to call for voters' support.
They're highlighting key platform issues, including amending the constitution, hiking the consumption tax, and the state's pension system.
Liberal Democratic Party President and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, "We are proposing to clearly state the existence of the Self-Defense Forces in the Constitution. Are you going to vote for candidates, and political parties, that fulfill their responsibilities as lawmakers and discuss these kinds of issues? Or, are you going to choose candidates and parties, that are irresponsible and won't even talk about such matters? On the issue of the public pension system, the opposition bloc is stoking anxiety without making any concrete proposals with sound funding plans. To secure financial resources for the pension system and to reassure people, the economy has to be strong. We are making the economy stronger. And if the economy improves, tax revenues will increase. The government's tax revenues for the fiscal year ending in March hit a record high. The ruling parties will continue to work closely together to maintain political stability."
Constitutional Democratic Party President Yukio Edano said, "I believe the lives of each and every one of you, and your sense of security have been steadily destroyed during the past six and a half years. You cannot let that destruction continue any further. People at the very top are concealing information and muddying the waters, when it comes to their cover-ups. The government hasn't been looking at the current state of people's lives. With your help, let's advance this country's democracy and create a society where each and every one of us can truly feel well off."
Democratic Party For the People President Yuichiro Tamaki said, "I want to share with you that this election is very important because it will predict or decide the future of Japan. Politics should be for the lives of the people. We, the Democratic Party For the People, are proposing family-first budget policy as a priority for our platform. We want to create a positive economic cycle mainly through consumer spending. Let's achieve change toward this policy."
Komeito Chief Representative Natsuo Yamaguchi said, "Japan's population is shrinking and its society is aging. As the first advanced nation to experience this phenomenon, how can Japan overcome this difficult challenge? With various domestic and international challenges ahead of us, political stability is essential, more than anything else, to steer this country through rough seas. And to maintain stability in Japan's politics, it is essential that Komeito continues to be part of the ruling coalition."
Japanese Communist Party Chairperson Kazuo Shii said, "The main issue with the pension system is this: Should we allow the government to reduce pension payouts by as much as seven trillion yen through a system that automatically balances payouts with financial resources. Or, should we prevent pensions from being cut? Whether we allow the consumption tax to be hiked to ten percent is also a big issue. Isn't it incredibly foolish to push forward with a tax increase, even though there are signs of an economic downturn?"
Nippon Ishin Japan Innovation Party Leader Ichiro Matsui said, "Prime Minister Abe says the upcoming tax hike will make free education a reality. But before that, there needs to be thorough administrative reform and efforts to find new sources of revenue. Carrying out the tax increase at this point would be a plan that hasn't been thought through and would continue to force a burden on the people. Please give us your support so we can stop this."
Social Democratic Party General Secretary Hajime Yoshikawa said, "Our party will do its best to fight, in the election, to protect the spirit of the Constitution, the lives of people in Japan and peace. "
Here's how the vote will work.
Currently the Upper House has 242 seats. But since representatives are elected on staggered 6-year terms, only half are up for grabs.
To correct a disparity in the value of each vote, the house is adding 3 seats during this and the next election. That means 124 seats will be filled.
Voters will directly choose 74 representatives. The remaining 50 will be selected through proportional representation.
Here's a look at the parties and political groups fielding candidates for electoral districts so far.
Liberal Democratic Party,
Constitutional Democratic Party,
Democratic Party For the People,
Japanese Communist Party,
Nippon Ishin Japan Innovation Party,
Social Democratic Party,
Consideration the Euthanasia System,
The Party of Protecting People from NHK,
Happiness Realization Party,
the Workers Party.
Some smaller groups are also looking to take seats. And a number of candidates are expected to run as independents.
All of these named parties and political groups are vying for seats under the proportional representation system. Smaller groups and independent politicians are not eligible.
Official campaigning will continue through July 20, the day before the vote.
Abe said that his ruling bloc aims to maintain a majority of seats in the Upper House. That would mean taking 53 of the 124 seats up for grabs.