Yesterday were the elections for the Upper House of the Japanese Diet. They were rather more exciting than usual, because the ruling Liberal Democratic Party did not win. The largest party in the upper house is now the Democratic Party (formed by a merger of the Liberal Party and the Democratic Party a few years ago, and led by a former secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party). It is not entirely clear just how much difference the change will make.
Obviously, I don’t get a vote, but then neither did one of the candidates. She had, apparently, failed to register her residence properly when she came back from the USA, and thus, while she had the right to vote in the abstract, she didn’t actually have the right to cast a vote in any particular place. She was elected, though, so she has the right to vote now…
Anyway, Yuriko had her vote, so we discussed the candidates together and decided what to do. For the upper house, there’s a double vote system. First, each prefecture is a constituency, with a varying number of candidates, depending on the population. Then there is a party list system, although you can also vote for a particular individual on the party list. The constituency votes are first-past-the-post, although for Kanagawa it’s first-three-past-the-post. The voters only get one vote for a constituency candidate, and one vote for the list, though. This makes the constituency vote a bit tricky; the strategy involved is far from clear, especially as each alliance bloc fielded multiple candidates in Kanagawa. (The Democratic Party had two candidates elected, which was presumably the plan.)
As in the UK, the lower house is the more powerful part of the Diet, so the prime minister does not have to resign. However, the upper house does have to agree to bills, as far as I understand it, so this will have a significant impact on politics. Even before that, though, the fact that the ruling party was utterly hammered in the elections is having an impact. It will be interesting to see what happens.