TOKUSHIMA – A panel of experts appointed by the National Governors’ Association proposed Friday a constitutional amendment to make clear that each of the nation’s 47 prefectures is represented in the House of Councilors.
In a draft report on Upper House reform, adopted at a meeting in the city of Tokushima, the panel called for scrapping the integration of sparsely populated neighboring prefectural constituencies — effective from the triennial Upper House election this summer — to narrow disparities in vote values.
The association plans to issue a panel report later this month in a bid to force a national debate on the advisability of electoral district integration, sources said.
The Constitution stipulates that both chambers of the Diet “shall consist of elected members, representatives of all people.”
Due to population declines in rural areas, vote-value disparities have widened, prompting the Supreme Court to issue rulings on a series of efforts to rectify the problem. In response, the Diet enacted an amendment to the public offices election law last year to allow sparsely populated neighboring prefectural constituencies to be combined.
But some prefectural governors have expressed concern that regional voices will not be adequately reflected in the national legislature.
The panel’s draft report proposed amending the constitution to state that the Upper House is a chamber of regions that comprises representatives from all prefectures. The redefinition would distance the Upper House from the problem of vote-value gaps, it said.
As changing the status of the Upper House would raise issues of role-sharing with the House of Representatives, the powerful lower chamber, however, the panel also underscored the need for broader discussions.
In addition to the constitutional amendment, the panel proposed other reforms, such as increasing the number of Upper House seats by 10 to 252 and changing the interpretation of the Constitution.