The 2016 triennial House of Councillors or upper house election is set to test Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s policy and popularity. Although the House of Councillors is less powerful than the House of Representatives, past prime ministers have been forced to resign after poor electoral results in the upper house. Prime Minister Abe does not face that prospect. His party is likely to suffer losses, though not big enough to lose majority. Japan’s upper house consists of 242 members of which half is up for elections every three years. There are two types of electoral systems and each voter casts two ballots: one to choose 48 members from a national party-list and the other to choose the rest of 73 members from prefectural districts consisting of between one and six seats, depending on the size of the population. For example, Tokyo has 6 seats while there are 32 single-member districts, after readjustments made for this year’s elections.
In the 2013 upper house elections, the Liberal Democratic Party and its minor coalition partner Komeito secured a solid majority with a total of 135 seats in the 242-seat chamber. The Abe wave that swept the LDP back into power in the general election of December 2012 was still powerful in 2013, as it was in December 2014 when Abe’s coalition secured a two-thirds majority in a snap election.
But in the years since, Japan’s political circumstances and economic environment have changed in ways that will likely influence the outcome of July’s election.
Politically, earlier this year the Democratic Party of Japan, which held power from 2009 to 2012, merged with another political party — the Japan Innovation Party — to form the Democratic Party (DP). This was a purely political move with an eye to present a united rather than fragmented opposition.