The Supreme Court in March 2011 ruled that the 2009 Lower House election, which brought the Democratic Party of Japan to power, was held in an unconstitutional state because of great disparity in the value of a vote between depopulated rural areas and populated urban areas. But it refrained from declaring the election results null and void. It is the Diet’s duty to immediately rectify the situation. Although 15 months have passed since the Supreme Court ruling, consultations between the ruling and opposition parties on the matter have not produced results. As the ruling party, the DPJ should realize that its responsibility is particularly heavy.
Because the consultations did not go smoothly, the DPJ unilaterally submitted a bill to reapportion the Lower House seats to the Diet. But it mixes two goals: rectification of the disparity in the vote value and reform of the Lower House election system. This will make the consultations among the parties difficult. The DPJ should focus solely on rectifying the vote value disparity.
The bill calls for reducing the number of seats in single-seat constituencies by five and reducing the number of seats in proportional representation by 40 to reduce the number of seats in this segment from the current 180 to 140. It also calls for introducing a modified election procedure for 35 of the 140 seats, which is advantageous to smaller parties.
The DPJ’s proposal to reduce the number of seats in proportional representation reflects its obsession with its 2009 Lower House election manifesto, which called for reducing the number of such seats by 80. The DPJ’s idea is misguided and will lead to a suppression of minority opinions in the Diet. The DPJ bill also proposes that parties that fail to get one percent or more valid votes in proportional representation should be denied seats and that non-party groups that cannot field 28 or more candidates should be banned from taking part in an election for proportional representation.
The Liberal Democratic Party is opposed to the DPJ’s bill because it will lead to a large loss of its seats in proportional representation. It plans to submit a bill to reduce the number of seats in single-seat constituencies by just five.
Depending on the fate of bills to raise the consumption tax — on which Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is staking his political life — Lower House dissolution may become reality. Both the ruling and opposition parties must realize the possibility of the Supreme Court nullifying the results of the next Lower House election unless the vote value disparity is rectified.