Upper house election may put Constitution reform in reach



The July 10 House of Councillors election could put at least two-thirds of the upper house in the hands of lawmakers amenable to amending the Japanese Constitution, opening the door to a national referendum on the issue, according to a Kyodo News survey.

The ruling bloc of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito are likely to win at least 70 of the 121 seats up for grabs in the election, comfortably exceeding Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s stated target of 61, a majority of the contested seats.

The nationwide telephone poll conducted Wednesday and Thursday—in which a total of 34,240 households nationwide were surveyed and 27,597 eligible voters responded—suggests that with the addition of Initiatives from Osaka and independents thought likely to support reform, Abe could amass sufficient support for his long-standing goal of amending the war-renouncing Constitution.

Based on the survey, the LDP could win close to 60 seats on its own. By combining at least 57 of the contested seats with the noncontested seats it already holds, the party could achieve a simple majority in the upper house for the first time in 27 years.

But with more than half of the survey’s respondents still undecided with two weeks of campaigning left to go, the election outcome is far from certain.

An attempt to kick-start a constitutional amendment would need the approval of at least 162 of the upper house’s 242 lawmakers.

The LDP, Komeito, Initiatives from Osaka and Party for the Japanese Kokoro together hold 84 seats in the half of the house that will not be contested in this election, so they would need to win 78 of the contested seats to reach the two-thirds mark.

As a further buffer, at least four independents in noncontested seats are thought likely to support reform.

On the antireform side, the main opposition Democratic Party is expected to falter, winning between 25 and 30 seats, while the Japanese Communist Party is likely to gain ground, building on the three of the contested seats it already holds.

The Social Democratic Party is likely to win just one of the contested seats, down from the two it currently holds.

Voters will cast two ballots on July 10—one to elect candidates in constituencies that will account for 73 of the 121 contested seats, and one to fill the other 48 seats with party list candidates under the proportional representation system.

Some 58.0 percent of respondents said they have not decided who will get their constituency vote, and 53.4 percent said they are still undecided about their proportional representation vote.

In all 32 of the electoral districts that elect just one seat, the Democratic Party, JCP, SDP and People’s Life Party have thrown their weight behind a single candidate to go head-to-head with the LDP candidate.

The survey puts the LDP ahead in 22 of these constituencies and suggests Democratic Party incumbents in some of them may struggle to retain their seats.

Komeito has put up a record seven candidates in constituencies. The survey suggests five of them are within the margin of victory and another is not far off.

Initiatives from Osaka is likely to win five seats through a combination of constituencies and proportional representation.

Among 18- and 19-year-old respondents, who are newly eligible to vote, some 54.2 percent said they are somewhat or completely uninterested in the election, while 45.1 percent said they are very or somewhat interested, the lowest proportion across age groups.

Across all age groups, 67.6 percent expressed interest in the race, down from 72.8 percent in Kyodo’s survey ahead of the last upper house election in 2013, while 32.1 percent expressed a lack of interest.

Respondents’ level of interest was broadly correlated with their age, with respondents in their 60s most likely to be at least somewhat interested.


Liberal MP to celebrate Canada Day at a controversial Quebec mosque


Alexandra Mendes, Liberal MP for Brossard-Saint-Lambert, will hold the 2016 Canada Day celebrations at a controversial mosque despite criticism expressed by some Canadians, reported The Huffington Post Quebec.

Mendes invited the population of Brossard-Saint-Lambert to the Islamic Community Centre of South Shore Brossard (ICC) on July 1, 2016, for a Canada Day party under the banner of “diversity and inclusion”.

In a message posted on her Facebook page, Mendes admitted receiving calls and messages expressing dissatisfaction with her choice of venue. “When did we ever celebrate this festival in a church, a synagogue, a Hindu temple? All this sounds like a provocation” wrote Blais Ginette de Lévis, to which Mendes replied: “There is no question of changing the place of the celebrations. This activity has absolutely no religious element! It is organized in the courtyard of the ICC, with children’s entertainment, popcorn, birthday cakes, ice cream, all during Ramadan! Holding Canada Day celebrations at the ICC was for me a prerequisite for accepting and co-organizing the event.”

In 2011, Justin Trudeau, then leader of the Liberal Party, came under fire for visiting ICC which had previously given $11,000 to the International Relief Fund For the Afflicted And Needy (IRFAN-Canada), an organization that was declared a terrorist entity by the Canadian government. IRFAN-Canada lost its charitable status in 2011 and has been on the list of terrorist entities since 2014 due to its links with Hamas.

At that time, Stephen Blaney, the previous Conservative government’s Public Safety Minister, said that “Between 2005 and 2009, IRFAN-Canada transferred approximately $14.6 million worth of resources to various organizations associated with Hamas, a listed terrorist entity under the Criminal Code” and called Trudeau’s visit an “appalling lack of judgment”.

The imam of the Islamic Community Centre of Brossard, Foudil Selmoune, made headlines in recent years for his comments on the Islamic sharia law, when he said that there are “conditions ” to cut off the hands of thieves and that Islamic laws allow the stoning of women. “We don’t cut hands off just anyone,” he said. “We cut the hands of people who have money and who steal.”

In response to the controversy, Mendes posted the following on her Facebook page:

On 20 June 2016 – the International Day of Refugees – while more than 60 million human beings roam the world in search of a land of welcome, I have received several calls and messages from citizens who wondered about the place that I chose to keep the celebrations of the festival of Canada.

First I’d like to thank all those people who have taken the trouble to express their dissatisfaction with me directly. This is for me a sign that our democracy is doing well. But I hope that these same people – and all the others who have not yet expressed – allow me to present my reasons for agreeing to Co-Chair Canada Day with the Islamic Community Center of the South Shore (ICC).

It all started with a very serious conversation on the feelings of exclusion and anger felt by the Muslim community in our constituency. These feelings were the result of comments, gestures and attitudes that several people were receiving more and more often, and against whom there was really no response other than silence.

Secular Leaders of ICC came to meet me to talk about their dismay; no press release on their part, no statement condemning all forms of terrorism, nothing seemed to be used to it, the Arab-Muslim community was treated with mistrust and fear. We have discussed this at length, we wanted to find a way to demonstrate to our fellow citizens that the people of Muslim faith are also people who live and face the same realities of everyday life: they have children and parents, jobs and debts, dreams and disappointments… And like any human being, these individuals have also needs to feel useful to society as a whole.

After this conversation, the leaders of ICC asked me to co-organize Canada Day with them. What is more, they wanted to open their doors so large that they have made a request to Citizenship Canada in order to organize a citizenship ceremony on July 1. This request was accepted and new citizens – of various origins – will take an oath on this date, just before you come to celebrate their new citizenship with us.

This activity has absolutely no religious component! It is organised in the outdoor courtyard of ICC, with inflatable structures, various entertainment for children, birthday cake, ice cream, all in the middle of Ramadan! It was indeed for me, a sine qua non for agreeing to co-organize the Canada day at ICC.

Our Prime Minister, the right honourable Justin Trudeau, the said with a conviction that I share 100 %: “Canada is not strong in spite of its diversity, it is stronger because of it!

We are a host country. We have always been and we need to remain in the future. Thanks to all that Canada has been successful for 149 years, we have become to millions of people across the world a model of the countries that they would also like to build.

The incredible outpouring of support that has enabled us to welcome with open arms over 27,000 Syrian refugees since November 2015, is also the spirit that I’d like which animates us all, in Brossard–Saint-Lambert, when we celebrate Canada Day at the Islamic Community Center . I hope to see you there!”