LDP, DP must find common ground in reforming lower house elections
The legislature has a duty to correct the vote-value disparity in House of Representatives elections, which (the Supreme Court ruled) are in a state of unconstitutionality. Both the ruling and opposition parties should realize without fail the reform of the electoral system during the current Diet session.
Lower house Speaker Tadamori Oshima held talks with representatives of each party and asked the Liberal Democratic Party and the Democratic Party (Minshinto, DP) to quickly submit their bills to revise the Public Offices Election Law and other relevant laws, and to form a conclusion on electoral reform by the end of the current Diet session.
In other words, Oshima has for now relinquished his attempt to combine the ideas of all the parties to reform the lower house election system.
The election system is the foundation of democracy. Because of its nature, the system should be reviewed based on a broad consensus. It is regrettable that the ruling party and main opposition party are taking different approaches to the reform.
Komeito has decided to support the LDP’s reform plan. The LDP-sponsored bills will probably be submitted to the Diet next week and are likely to be enacted during the current Diet session. However, the ruling and opposition parties should continue until the last moment their efforts to find common ground.
The plans drawn up by the ruling and opposition parties both adopt the Adams’ method to reallocate lower house seats to single-seat constituencies in prefectures around the country. However, the LDP’s plan introduces it after a national census to be held in 2020, while the DP would introduce it immediately based on results of the 2010 census.
The Adams’ method would keep the vote-value gap within 2 to 1, a ratio prescribed as fundamental in the Law for the Council on the House of Representatives Electoral District.
The method pays due consideration to prefectures with small populations by allocating lower house seats to them in a relatively generous manner.
Seat reduction questionable
Since the Adams’ method is an essential part of the report submitted by a panel of experts on the electoral system reform to the lower house speaker, it is a matter of course to stipulate it in concerned bills.
If lower house seats are reallocated based on results of the 2010 census, their numbers will be “plus seven and minus 13.” In other words, a total of seven seats would be added in Tokyo and four prefectures, and one seat would be taken from each of 13 prefectures. The LDP is trying to delay the introduction of the Adams’ method, apparently aiming to avoid opposition by lawmakers elected from prefectures where the number of seats will decrease.
The LDP’s plan reduces six lower house seats based on results of the simplified census conducted in 2015, and also reviews the demarcation of electoral districts around the country. Its implementation would mean that the demarcation of electoral districts could be changed twice in some areas, when it goes into effect and after the introduction of the Adams’ method.
Some observers point out that it might harm the stability of the election system and ties between lawmakers and voters.
It is questionable why both plans have included a reduction in the number of lower house seats. They each reduce a total of six seats from single-seat constituencies and four from the proportional representation section.
If the number of seats is reduced, it will become more difficult to choose lawmakers representing a wide variety of public opinion, and it might lessen the legislature’s ability to monitor the administration. It is worth noting that Japan has relatively fewer Diet members than those in European countries in relation to its population.
Parties also must deepen discussions on the adverse effects of reducing the number of lower house seats without being caught by their own rhetoric, namely their public pledges to sacrifice their own interests and reduce the number of Diet seats.
Since transition to the new electoral system is likely to require more than a year due to the need to review the demarcation of electoral districts and publicize the relevant bills to voters after they are enacted, the ruling and opposition parties must hasten deliberations.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 8, 2016)