A panel of experts tasked with reforming the Lower House electoral system on Thursday calls for the abolition of 10 lower chamber seats and the reallocation of others from areas of low population to dense urban areas.
The reform would rectify gaps in the weight of votes between constituencies. It would also cut the total number of seats to a postwar low of 465.
The proposal, submitted to Lower House Speaker Tadamori Oshima, calls for narrowing the vote-value disparity between constituencies with the most and least voters to a ratio of less than 2:1.
It would be an ongoing process, involving reviews every 10 years of the number of seats allocated to each prefecture and comparing this with national census results to make the electoral map match shifts in the population.
If the vote-value disparity exceeds 2:1 during the decade, the report calls for redrawing electoral districts based on the findings of smaller censuses, which are conducted every five years.
Political parties are expected to examine the proposal and compile responses in about a month. They will then begin interparty negotiations on what action to take.
The Supreme Court has ruled that the last three general elections, each of which had striking vote-value disparities, were held “in a state of unconstitutionality.”Oshima said he hoped to submit and enact a bill to revise the public office election law within the current Diet session.
However, whether the parties will adopt the recommendation remains to be seen. It is not legally binding, and some lawmakers, especially those in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, are likely to oppose reforms because the LDP is dominant in many electoral districts that would be shrunk.
If the proposed reform is applied based on the 2010 national census, 13 prefectures — Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi, Niigata, Mie, Shiga, Nara, Hiroshima, Ehime, Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Kagoshima and Okinawa — would lose one seat each, while densely populated Tokyo would gain three seats and Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa and Aichi prefectures would gain one seat each.
Regarding proportional representation seats, Tohoku, northern Kanto, Tokai, Kinki and Kyushu blocs would lose one seat each, while the Tokyo bloc would gain one.
The changes would bring the maximum vote-value disparities between the most and least populous prefectures to 1.621:1, down from 1.788:1 in the 2014 Lower House election, in which the LDP scored a landslide victory.
After receiving the recommendation from the experts, Oshima said each lawmaker must reflect on the Supreme Court’s declaration.
“The most important thing is not to be declared ‘in a state of unconstitutionality’ every time there is an election,” Oshima said.
The recommendation notes that many parties pledged in election campaigns to reduce the number of seats, adding that it was therefore a promise made to the public.