Debates are going on to reform the electoral system of the Lower House,
focusing on whether the number of seats should be decreased and how many.
But what is important is to seek for a structure that could reflect people’s
voice rightly, and the key point does not lie in the context of reducing
seats in the Diet.
SYSTEM BASED ON PROPORATIONAL REPRESENTATION IS EXPECTED TO REFLECT PEOPLE’S VOICE
November last year the Supreme Court ruled that gap in value produced by an individual vote shown in the 2014 general election ‘violated’ the law, principle of equality under the law. Responding to the ruling, Speaker of the House of Representative, Ohshima Tadamori, presented to each of political parties a report compiled (January 14) by the Investigative Panel on Electoral System’, an advisory organ of Speaker. Political games are being held on the number of seats to be reduced.
The report proposed to reduce ten seats in the House of Representatives (6 seats for the small constituencies and 4 for proportional representation). As for distribution of members elected from the small constituencies, it advises to employ the Adams’ Method and review in every ten years pursuant to the national census. Speaker Ohshima coordinates opinions, listening to the views of political parties.
Reform that affects on those who reform !?
Lawsuits to question value of an individual vote have been fought for long time on the ground that gap per vote does not meet equality stipulated by law. Plaintiffs focus on the ratio between the number of seats gained in the parliament and that of voters. The point is whether the existing system may reflect public will. But either the panel’s report or the debates by political parties do not answer the question. The latter represents a convenient view of each party.
Lawmakers say that a proposal to reduce the number of parliamentary seats is a bold reform that may affect them themselves, but it is only theatrical performance and means a small reduction of government expenditure. The proposed reform does not respond to public voices. Some claim there are too many parliamentarians in the Japan’s Diet, but a comparison of the number with those of other countries does not support the argument. A reduced number of parliamentary representatives may cause more difficulties in reflecting public voices and produce bigger harm.
People complain the current system does not reflect people’s will in the state-level politics. Concerning issues of national security laws and nuclear power generation, the Diet’s attitude and public opinion are completely opposite. The Abe government keeps driving violently and Prime Minister has expressed his will to amend the Constitution after the July election for the House of Councilors. One of the reasons that may allow these developments comes from the election system. It is indispensable to change it significantly so that right candidates could be chosen for the sake of people. Reforms must not be tricky.
43% vote acquisition gets 79% of seats
Until the 40th round of general election held in 1993 the system had relied on the intermediate-size constituency scheme, under which candidates from more than a few parties could win and reflect various views of people. Parliamentary seats had not been monopolized by big parties, which is a practice today.
In 1996, however, a new ‘small constituency system with proportional representation system’ was introduced (300 seats from the constituencies and 200 from proportional representation) in the general election. It lasts up to today.
Let’s look at the 2014 general election, which was held in the above-mentioned system. The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) gained 43% of the total votes in the constituencies, which gave the party 79% of the seats, while the Democratic Party of Japan obtained 22.8% of the votes, having only 9% of the seats. Under the current election system dead votes in the constituencies count 25.4 million, occupying as high as 48%.
Only one candidate can win in the 300 constituencies - the practice of which is the biggest evil, being the driving force of the Abe government. Recent scandals of LDP politicians, who have revealed shameful acts, are not irrelevant to the election system.
An electoral system that could mirror people’s will based on the proportional representation is most expected today.
March 22, 2016