Ahead of the House of Councilors election this summer, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party is experiencing delays in choosing candidates for some single-seat constituencies.
The Upper House districts are opposition strongholds that have caused disagreements between local LDP branches and the national headquarters.
It is unclear whether the LDP can essentially finalize candidates for the Upper House by the March 13 party convention, as the leadership wanted.
There are a total of 32 single-seat constituencies in the Upper House across the country. The LDP has yet to decide which candidate it will formally support in the Upper House poll in seven: Aomori, Miyagi, Yamagata, Yamanashi, Nagano, Tottori-Shimane and Okinawa.
Delays in the candidate selection process were particularly evident in Okinawa, following a mayoral election in Nago city last month. With the term of Okinawa’s incumbent governor expiring in September, the process is also affected by the need to prepare for a gubernatorial election.
In Okinawa, the LDP headquarters is backing Atsushi Sakima, former mayor of Ginowan, as a potential candidate for the upper house, while the local is considering running him in the gubernatorial race. The local chapter failed to reach a conclusion during the talks on Saturday, which was joined by a PLD deputy elected in the prefecture.
In Miyagi, the party headquarters is seeking to endorse an independent incumbent who belongs to the same parliamentary group as the LDP MPs.
But the Miyagi chapter fears that the incumbent won the 2016 election by running as a unified opposition party candidate. He hopes to field a current member of the Miyagi Prefectural Assembly in this year’s elections.
The official LDP candidate for Miyagi is expected to be determined based on an opinion poll in April.
In recent Upper House elections, LDP candidates lost three in a row in Okinawa and twice in a row in Miyagi. The low results prevent the party from reaching a consensus on its candidates.
Meanwhile, the LDP went through its leadership race and Lower House election last fall, causing delays in its preparations for the Upper House poll. “We are two months behind the usual years (upper house elections),” said a party official involved in election strategy.
In Yamanashi, a male member of the prefectural assembly has the highest rating of candidates for the LDP ticket. Nevertheless, the prefectural chapter postponed its decision, pressed by LDP General Secretary Toshimitsu Motegi, to choose a young candidate to increase the chances of victory.
In Aomori, a member of the prefectural assembly was chosen as the LDP candidate on Saturday by a vote of local party members and supporters.
In the district of Tottori-Shimane, which brings together the two prefectures, the headquarters of the PLD should soon give its official endorsement to the incumbent based in Shimane.
In Nagano, a local celebrity and others have emerged as potential LDP candidates.
The party’s Yamagata chapter, home to LDP election strategy chief Toshiaki Endo, has narrowed its list of potential candidates to three.
“The sooner (the selection of candidates is) the better,” said Hiroshige Seko, the party’s general secretary in the Upper House, at a press conference on Friday. “Simply increasing awareness of the candidate’s name will take time.”
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