参院1票の格差 選挙制度の抜本的見直しを

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Oct. 2, 2009)
Electoral reform needed to end vote disparity
参院1票の格差 選挙制度の抜本的見直しを(10月2日付・読売社説)

The Supreme Court has sent a strong message to the Diet that vote value disparity cannot be fixed only through cosmetic measures.

The court's Grand Bench on Wednesday said the disparity in the weight of votes or the number of eligible voters per House of Councillors seat could not be significantly narrowed only by changing the number of seats for certain constituencies.

The court then went one step further and called for drastic steps to be taken to correct this gap, saying, "The current electoral system itself needs to be reformed."

The top court has previously urged the Diet to fix the disparity in the value of votes cast in upper house elections. But the court appears to have run out of patience as little progress has been made in remedying this disparity, and moved to put strong pressure on the Diet to act.

We hope lawmakers will take the court's advice to heart and hold further discussions on this matter.


Weight problems

The latest court case was fought over the constitutionality of the allocation of seats in the 2007 upper house election. The largest disparity in the election was between the Kanagawa and Tottori prefectural constituencies, with the former having 4.86 times more voters than the latter.

The top court ruled this imbalance was not serious enough to violate the Constitution, which guarantees equality among the people. Indeed, four upper house seats were taken from less-populous constituencies and given to constituencies with more voters in 2006 in a bid to alleviate the imbalance. However, the court said "significant inequality" still existed between the weight of votes cast in some constituencies.

The upper house election process currently consists of a prefecturewide constituency segment and a nationwide proportional representation segment. Half of the upper house seats are contested every three years. At least two seats are allocated to each constituency, with the prefecturewide segment electing representatives of each prefecture.

This system, in fact, has been a barrier to reducing the vote value disparity. But if this framework were changed, new problems would emerge instead.


System hampers progress

For example, when the "plus-four, minus-four formula" was being discussed, the Democratic Party of Japan argued for integrating the Tottori prefectural constituency, which had the fewest number of voters, and the neighboring Shimane prefectural constituency into a single constituency. This would have reduced the largest vote disparity to less than 4:1.

If this measure had actually been implemented, however, voters in these two prefectures would be quite justified in feeling aggrieved since each prefecture would be stripped of its own elected representative.

As the ruling showed, as long as the current framework is maintained, there are limits to how much the vote value disparity can be rectified.

The DPJ has pledged to overhaul the electoral system of the upper house by around 2013.

The electoral systems of the House of Representatives and the upper house both are comprised of constituency and proportional representation segments. The similarity in their setups has been the target of strong criticism. Some observers argue that upper house elections should be held only under the proportional representation system.

We want to see thorough discussions for drastic reform of the electoral system--including on the bicameral system itself.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 2, 2009)
(2009年10月2日00時56分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2009-10-02 11:54 | 英字新聞

<< 「鞆の浦」判決 景観保護と地域... 混合診療 適用拡大の流れを変えるな >>