Vote disparity could jeopardize poll result

Kyodo

The outcome of the Dec. 16 election could be ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court due to the government’s failure to remedy the vote-value disparities, experts warned Friday.

The top court ruled in March last year that disparities of as much as 2.3 to 1.0 in the weight of a vote in the 2009 Lower House election were “in a state of unconstitutionality.”

Although the justices called on the Diet to promptly rectify these imbalances, the Dec. 16 poll will be held with the exact same electoral zoning system as in the 2009 election.

Based on population data registered by municipalities as of late March, vote-value disparities are estimated to have expanded to 2.48 to 1.0 during the Democratic Party of Japan’s three years in office. The largest discrepancy identified is between the Kochi Prefecture No. 3 district and the Chiba Prefecture No. 4 district.

The Supreme Court attributed the 2009 imbalances primarily to the Lower House’s current seat distribution system, in which one seat is allocated to every prefecture and the remaining 253 single-seat constituencies are distributed in proportion to voter population.

Lawyer Tokuji Izumi, a former top court justice, said he expects high courts nationwide will rule the disparities in next month’s election are unconstitutional.

“There has been enough time since the court warned of the ‘state of unconstitutionality,’ but not much has been done since then” to address it, Izumi said. “It is highly likely the Supreme Court will go a step further this time and rule (the vote-value disparities) unconstitutional.”

Masahito Tadano, an expert on the Constitution at Hitotsubashi University’s Graduate School of Law, said an October judgement by the Supreme Court that the fivefold disparity in the weight of votes in the 2010 Upper House election was also “in a state of unconstitutionality” again strongly sent “a message urging an early correction” of the present imbalances among constituencies.

“With political struggles occupying lawmakers’ minds, no diligent efforts were made to rectify the situation. The (top) court would at least rule (the upcoming poll results) unconstitutional, and could go as far as to invalidating its outcome,” Tadano said.

Kizuna to join Ozawa

Jiji

The tiny Kizuna Party will merge into Ichiro Ozawa’s new political group, Kokumin no Seikatsu ga Daiichi (People’s Life First), ahead of the Dec. 16 election.

According to an announcement Thursday, the number of lawmakers in the party launched by Ozawa in July will rise to 57, comprising 45 Lower House members and 12 members of the House of Councilors. Ozawa, a former president of the Democratic Party of Japan, quit the ruling party earlier this year to protest Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s move to hike the consumption tax.

However, Kizuna Party chief Akira Uchiyama will not be joining Kokumin no Seikatsu ga Daiichi as he is seeking to collaborate with Shizuka Kamei, the former leader of Kokumin Shinto (People’s New Party), the DPJ’s junior coalition partner, to create a third force in national politics.

The Kizuna Party was launched by a group DPJ defectors, many of whom are close to Ozawa, in January.

Wind of change

Kyodo

A new political party called Midori no Kaze (Green Wind) was launched Thursday by one Lower House and four Upper House lawmakers, setting the elimination of nuclear power as one of its key goals.

Its five founders include Upper House members Kuniko Tanioka and Kuniko Koda, who quit the ruling Democratic Party of Japan in July, and Lower House lawmaker Makoto Yamazaki, who submitted his resignation to the DPJ Thursday.

The new party was originally established as a parliamentary group by the four Upper House members in late July. But thanks to Yamazaki’s participation, Midori no Kaze became eligible to register with the government as a national political party by meeting the threshold of having at least five Diet members.

“The DPJ, the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito make deals on key issues behind closed doors,” Tanioka said after registering Midori no Kaze on Thursday with the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, referring to the two main opposition groups.

In addition to its antinuclear stance, the party opposes participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade framework.