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Lawmakers can’t break logjam over Japan’s unequal voting districts

by

Staff Writer

One month after an expert panel proposed key electoral reforms to correct wide vote-value disparities between urban and less-populated areas, major political parties remain divided on the issue, Lower House Speaker Tadamori Oshima revealed Monday.

After months of stalemate, the major parties tasked the third-party panel with hammering out reform proposals to correct perhaps the most fundamental problem facing Japanese democracy today, and agreed to “respect” its conclusions, a promise they now seem loathe to carry through.

Specifically, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, at least for now, is refusing to accept a seat allocation method proposed by the panel to narrow the vote-value disparities.

The formula proposed by the panel, headed by former University of Tokyo President Takeshi Sasaki, is known as the Adams’ Method, named after John Quincy Adams, the sixth president of the United States.

The method would replace the current one, which allocates at least one seat to each of the 47 prefectures, which the Supreme Court blamed as a key factor allowing less-populated areas to elect more Diet members than their populations warrant.

In a meeting with Oshima on Monday, LDP Secretary-General Sadakazu Tanigaki proposed that six seats be eliminated from the single-seat constituencies to narrow the vote-value disparities.

But under the Adams’ Method, seven seats would be added in certain areas and 13 seats would be eliminated in less-populated areas.

The LDP is believed to be reluctant to accept this plan because it would eliminate more seats now held by its members.

Meanwhile, the opposition Democratic Party of Japan rejected Tanigaki’s idea. “We cannot accept (the LDP’s proposal) because it’s merely a maneuver for their party interests,” the DPJ said in a statement later in the day.

The LDP, however, did not rule out other electoral reforms when the next full-scale census survey is conducted in 2020, Oshima told reporters.

The Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party have also refused to accept the panel’s set of reform proposals, which would eliminate 10 seats from the 475-seat chamber, according to Oshima.

The JCP argues that the entire single-seat component of the Lower House election system should be abolished to “reflect the voice of the people” more fairly. The single-seat system is considered disadvantageous for small parties like the JCP.

This diversity of opinions has again underlined the seeming inability of the Diet to correct this crucial issue.

Some parties, including the LDP and JCP, have favored reforms apparently advantageous to themselves, and have long sought to stall talks to correct widening vote-value disparities.