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Okayama judge slams remiss Diet

Court voids poll results in a third district

Kyodo

Another court on Tuesday ruled the outcome of the December general election unconstitutional and invalid in a specific district, citing a significant disparity in the weight of votes.

The Okayama branch of the Hiroshima High Court decided to void the Lower House election outcome in the Okayama No. 2 district, a day after the high court nullified the election results for Hiroshima’s No. 1 and 2 districts in an unprecedented ruling.

Presiding Judge Noriyoshi Katano of the Okayama branch accused the Diet of neglecting to address vote disparity issues and disregarding the nation’s legal system.

“The 634-day period from the Supreme Court’s ruling until the election was enough time to fix the disparity,” Katano said.

In March 2011, the Supreme Court ruled that a vote disparity of up to 2.3 times in the 2009 election was “in a state of unconstitutionality.”

The Okayama branch did not give a moratorium on when its decision would take effect, meaning that if the ruling becomes final, there must be a new election.

Takashi Yamashita, a Lower House member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party who was elected for the first time from the Okayama No. 2 district, told reporters the Supreme Court needs to make the “final decision” on the matter.

Local election board officials are expected to appeal the branch’s decision.

Shintaro Kagawa, a lawyer for the case in the Okayama branch, told reporters that the ruling was “historic” and went “a step further” than the ruling by the Hiroshima High Court on Monday.

He urged the Supreme Court to quickly come up with a unified view on the vote disparity issue.

Following the ruling by the branch, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters “there is a need to swiftly fix” the disparities.

On Tuesday, several other courts also found that disparities in the value of votes of up to 2.43 to 1 in the Dec. 16 Lower House election, in which Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s LDP won a landslide, were unconstitutional. But those courts did not nullify the election results.

The courts include the Hiroshima High Court’s Matsue branch, the Tokyo High Court, the Osaka High Court and the Fukuoka High Court’s Naha and Miyazaki branches. The Hiroshima High Court, in a case separate from Monday’s, followed suit.

Following the Lower House election, two groups led by lawyers filed a total of 16 lawsuits with 14 high courts or their branches, arguing that the election should be invalidated.

The Hiroshima High Court ruled Monday that the election results would not be invalidated until Nov. 26, one year to the day after a Lower House council began work on revising single-seat electoral districts.

The Diet enacted a law in November to reduce the disparities by cutting the number of single-seat districts in the Lower House to 295 from 300, but the December election was conducted with the same electoral districts as in the 2009 contest.

  • phu

    Finally! It’s great to see something actually being done about this.

  • GIJ

    Malapportionment is a huge problem in Japanese elections, and really makes a mockery of the whole principle of “one person, one vote.” And before somebody points out that the USA is just as bad if not worse with its gerrymandering and ridiculous Senate chamber (two Senators each for North Dakota’s 700,000 people and California’s 38 million people? Really?), well I don’t care. Japan needs to fix its own system rather than sitting back content in the knowledge that other nations have more distorted electoral systems. Good moves by these courts.

  • Mats Eri

    Don’t get too excited. The Japanese system only changes when something big happens. Look at their history, Meiji Restoration, World War II.
    The government and politicians will stall and stall to preserve their jobs and income. They are self serving and not interested in the best interests of the country. As the judge said they had almost two years to deal with the problem and they did nothing………..

    • GIJ

      You should delve further into Japan’s history. In 1994, Japan reformed its entire electoral system, one dating back to 1925. Just like that, 129 multi-member electoral districts were wiped off the map and replaced with 300 single member districts. Nothing really earth-shaking had happened to provoke this change, the kind of far-reaching change that would appear unthinkable in most other wealthy democracies.

  • nobuo takamura

    My opinion on this issue is that most of the Japanese should avert at all to this election system, because a lot of representatives in the Lower House betrayed their supporters eligible to vote even after they were accredited to the House of Representatives in the situation that they had to oppose their own party. Election should have been carried out depending on the party, not the person, in order to be flexibly adapted to the rolling census of eligible voters. In this age of fluctuating movement of people from urban to rural or vice versa, every 5 or 10 years, the constituency must be redressed and redrawn to the appropriate situation.

  • AmIJustAPessimistOrWhat?

    It will be interesting to see if the courts decisions will have any effect.

  • AmIJustAPessimistOrWhat?

    Yes, it’s unfair. But I dread what I know will happen when the farmers lose their unfair say: the farmers will be moved to the unemployment lines and be replaced by foreign “trainees” (=semi-slave labor) from you know where. Vast amount of money will move through narrow funnels; that’s where the politicians will bare there teeth and get a sip. And prices under the grip of mega-Agro will be set to gouge without reserve.