Take a quick look at Japan’s political calendar for 2019. It’s shaping up to be one heck of a year. There will be nationwide local elections in mid-April, which will be followed by Emperor Akihito’s historic abdication at the end of the same month and the arrival of a new era. A little less than two months later, in late June, the nation will host the Group of 20 summit in Osaka for the first time ever, before political tensions soar once again later in the summer when a pivotal Upper House election is held. The nation will then brace for a consumption tax hike, slated for October, from the current eight to 10 percent. Hectic? That’s for sure. But experts say Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, determined to follow through on his longtime quest to revise the postwar Constitution, could make things even more complicated by engineering what is often dubbed a “double election” — where he strategically dissolves the Lower House to coincide with the pre-scheduled July Upper House poll.
The rationale is that surviving the Upper House election with the current two-thirds “supermajority” intact may be Abe’s only realistic shot at even attempting a constitutional amendment, and that he would be willing to pull out all the stops to maximize the chances of preserving this margin, political observers say.
“Abe has been at the top of the nation for so long now, and I think that if there is one possible way he could earn his place in history, it’s revising the Constitution,” Yoshiaki Kobayashi, a political science professor at Keio University, said. Winning the Upper House poll is Abe’s “last chance” to keep his grip on revising the charter, which has remained untouched since its inception more than 70 years ago, he added.
“To this end, I think he is willing to do everything in his power, including a double election.”