Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its junior coalition partner Komeito are poised to win an overwhelming victory in upper house elections Sunday, local media projected.
Abe’s LDP could win a single-party majority in the House of Councillors race, broadcaster NTV reported, despite his government’s failure to achieve long-term economic growth.
It was still uncertain whether the ruling coalition and like-minded parties would be able to capture a two-thirds majority in the upper chamber of parliament.
The premier would need the support of two-thirds of both chambers of parliament in order to call a national referendum on changing the constitution. The coalition already holds a majority in the House of Representatives, the more powerful lower house.
The LDP has pushed for reform of the constitution since it was founded in 1955, and drafted proposed amendments in 2005 and 2012. Abe has said that the constitution limits Japan's ability to offer military support to its allies.
The main opposition Democratic Party is expected to win around 30 seats, far below its 43 contested seats.
The party was formed in March through the merger of the Democratic Party of Japan and Japan Innovation Party.
"The Democratic Party has been further fragmented since the party leader [Katsuya] Okada decided to forge an electoral alliance with the Japanese Communist Party (JCP)," said Minoru Morita, a Tokyo-based political analyst.
The Communist Party, which has been drawing voters frustrated with Abe's government, is expected to gain more seats.
The Japanese economy has entered an "Abenomics recession," declared JCP leader Kazuo Shii in Yokohama Saturday, referring to the premier’s economic policies based on fiscal stimulus, monetary easing and structural reforms.
“Let us correct disparities and eliminate poverty,” Shii added.
Every three years Japan's upper house holds elections for half of its 242 seats. This year a total of 389 candidates are running for the 121 seats.
Of the 106.6 million registered voters in Japan, about 16 million people cast their ballot in early polls before Sunday, up 23.5 per cent from the 2013 upper house elections, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.
The elections are the first in Japan to be open to 2.4 million people aged 18 and 19, after an electoral law amendment recently reduced the minimum voting age from 20.
Analysts said, however, young people seldom discuss politics and social issues due to the education system, which emphasizes rote memorization for exams instead of encouraging students to express themselves.
"Unfortunately, not many young people go to the polls," said Takao Toshikawa, founder and editor-in-chief of Insideline, a bi-weekly publication in Tokyo.