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On the Results of the House of Councilors Election

Statement by ODAGAWA Yoshikazu
July 12, 2010

The ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) suffered a sharp setback in the July 11 House of Councilors election. As the result of the election, it has 109 seats in the upper house, far from the minimum number (121) required to maintain its majority. The result is seen in stark contrast with the House of Representatives general election in August last year, which gave the DPJ a comfortable majority position in the lower house. The two chambers of the Diet now have different parties holding majority, a situation in which unstable political situation is likely. The outcome of the latest election makes it even more important for the National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren) to work harder to increase the movement for various demands and oppose undemocratic policies that force the public to endure hardships.

In the House of Councilors election, Zenroren called on workers and their unions to work to break away from the policies subservient to the United States and policies in defense of the interests of the business sector and large corporations and to pursue policies for the protection of the livelihoods of workers and all sections of the people.

Shortly before the official start of election campaigning, Prime Minister KAN Naoto publicly spoke about raising the consumption tax rate to 10 percent (from present five percent). We said, "Whether to allow or not a consumption tax increase should be the main issue in this election." We released an appeal calling for putting up a major struggle to oppose the tax increase. We believe that this initiative made some contribution to elevating the consumption tax the main issue in the election. However, our movement was not conducive to achieving a result that reflects people's opposition to a consumption tax increase and their call for tax reform requiring large corporations to accept a fair share of tax burden. We are called upon to carry on this struggle.

After the upper house election, the Liberal Democratic Party became the largest opposition party in terms of the number of seats won. However, in the proportional representation part of the upper house election, the ruling DPJ won the largest share of the vote, 30 percent. This diversity of voters' willingness and their diversified options was manifest in the percentage of the vote won in the proportional representation election.

We strongly demand that the post-election political process pay attention to an open discussion and prudence in making policy decisions that reflect the diversity of popular options. We are particularly concerned about the call for a cut in the number of House of Representatives seats, the call made by some parties during the recent election campaign, a "small government" that will mean further privatization and job cuts in the public service sector and the construction of a new U.S. military base in the Henoko district of Nago City, Okinawa. We demand that the government refrain from pushing ahead with these agenda items in defiance of widespread opposition. Zenroren will continue to play an active role in calling for improvements in social services, substantial cuts in military expenditure and an end to the tax system that favors large corporations, and demand policies standing for the constitutional principles.

With the argument advocating the conservative-based "two-party system" being propagated in present-day Japan, the political party that called for steps to improve the quality of employment through making the job market stable through revising the Worker Dispatch Law, raising the minimum wage, and for improving social services was unable to increase its House of Councilors seats. Poverty is spreading among workers. Working conditions are deteriorating. If we are to improve the present situation, more pro-labor political forces must occupy Diet seats to put forward workers' demands. In this respect, the results of the House of Councilors election indicate that it is necessary for unions to have an in-depth discussion about their involvement in the electoral struggle. Zenroren will use its 25th Convention later this month and other occasions to review its activities during the election. Zenroren offers thanks to the many union members for doing their part in the election despite the very difficult working and living conditions.

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