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December poll unconstitutional but results stand: Akita high court branch

Kyodo

The Sendai High Court’s Akita branch ruled Wednesday that the vote-value disparity in a local constituency in the December general election was unconstitutional but let the results stand.

The ruling, centering on the poll results for the Akita No. 1 constituency, was the last in 16 cases brought by two groups of lawyers over disparities in the weight of votes of up to 2.43 to 1 in the Dec. 16 Lower House election, which returned the Liberal Democratic Party to power after three-plus years and led to LDP leader Shinzo Abe being installed as prime minister.

The Akita branch rejected the plaintiffs’ demand to nullify the election results for the No. 1 constituency. Two other high courts have ruled in recent days, however, that the results be nullified in the constituencies contested in their respective suits.

In the 15 other rulings that had been handed down as of Tuesday, the courts found that the vote weight disparities were either unconstitutional or “in a state of unconstitutionality.”

The Hiroshima High Court on Monday and its Okayama branch on Tuesday, however, invalidated the Lower House election results for constituencies in both prefectures.

The Supreme Court may give a unified judgment this year.

Tokuji Izumi, a former Supreme Court justice, said the top court is likely to side with the majority of the high courts in calling the general election’s outcome unconstitutional, but not void.

“With the judges in many high courts ruling (the election was) unconstitutional, reversing that would make it appear that the Supreme Court lacks common sense,” Izumi said.

Following the December general election, the two groups of lawyers filed 16 lawsuits with 14 high courts or their branches, arguing that the poll should be invalidated.

In March 2011, the Supreme Court ruled that a disparity in the weight of votes of up to 2.3 times in the 2009 general election, which brought the Democratic Party of Japan to power, was “in a state of unconstitutionality.”

The Diet enacted a law last November, while the DPJ was still in power, to reduce the vote weight disparities by cutting the number of Lower House single-seat constituencies to 295 from 300, but the December poll was held with the same zoning of electoral districts as in the 2009 contest.