参院1票の格差 抜本改革へ最高裁の強い警告

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 19, 2012)
Top court sternly warns Diet over electoral system reform
参院1票の格差 抜本改革へ最高裁の強い警告(10月18日付・読売社説)

It was a strong warning from the Supreme Court to the Diet, which is not working on fundamentally rectifying the vote-value disparity.

The top court's Grand Bench ruled Wednesday that the 2010 House of Councillors election, which had a maximum vote-value disparity of five times, "was in a state of unconstitutionality."

Twelve of the 15 justices so concluded, while the remaining three judged the election "unconstitutional," which is a stricter term.

The Supreme Court pointed out, as it has done before, that it is "extremely difficult to meet a request to ensure equality of the value of votes" under the current system based on 47 prefectural constituencies while populations have become concentrated in urban areas.

This is because, under the current system, two seats must be allotted even to Tottori Prefecture, the prefecture with the smallest population.


Pending bills not bold enough

A bill to revise the Public Offices Election Law submitted to the Diet by the Democratic Party of Japan and the Liberal Democratic Party in the last ordinary Diet session will not change this prefecture-based electoral system. Instead, it calls for a two-seat increase in each of two prefectural constituencies and a two-seat reduction in each of two other prefectural constituencies.

Wednesday's ruling also said simply increasing or reducing the number of seats for some prefectural constituencies will not solve the disparity. In other words, the top court apparently meant to raise doubt that "a state of unconstitutionality" would be eliminated even if the bill to introduce the "plus-four, minus-four" plan were enacted.

If the upper house election is held in summer next year with only such a cosmetic measure taken, there is no doubt that a wave of lawsuits over the number of seats allotted to prefectural constituencies will be filed after the election. It is even possible that a court in the future may rule an election "unconstitutional," invalidating part of it.

We think the ruling and opposition parties should quickly discuss another plan, one bolder than the "plus-four, minus-four" plan, to correct the number of seats allotted to constituencies.

The drastic electoral reform urged by the top court should also be quickly implemented.


A better plan fizzled

In debates over reform of the upper house electoral system that started in 2010, the ruling and opposition parties took up for discussion a plan to change constituencies from prefecture-based to bloc-based. This is because the bloc-based system has an advantage--it would make it easier to narrow disparities.

The plan fizzled out after the death of Takeo Nishioka, the former upper house president who took the initiative in introducing the change. However, we think the plan should be discussed again.

The Diet response has always been too late. This may make people think Diet members lack the ability to handle the problem, only increasing public distrust in politics.

The top court previously ruled that the 2009 House of Representatives election was also "in a state of unconstitutionality." It is unusual for judicial authorities to judge both chambers to be in a situation violating the Constitution, which stipulates equality under the law.

The electoral system for the upper house is a dual system that combines proportional representation and constituencies. It resembles that of the lower house. It is indispensable, then, to have discussions with an eye on the division of roles of the lower and upper houses.

The ruling and opposition parties must quickly convene an extraordinary Diet session and take necessary measures to solve the state of unconstitutionality in time for the next elections.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 18, 2012)
(2012年10月18日01時20分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2012-10-21 07:35 | 英字新聞

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