Keep minority views alive

The Liberal Democratic Party has disclosed its proposal to change the electoral system for the Lower House, which will reduce the number of lawmakers elected from proportionally represented constituencies and give preferential treatment to minor parties.

In 2012, the then ruling Democratic Party of Japan had also called for cutting back on the number of lawmakers elected through proportional representation.

Both the LDP and the DPJ should be aware of the fact that the percentage of national parliament members relative to the population in Japan is not large compared with other developed countries. Decreasing the number of people’s representatives will only narrow the chance of people having their opinions reflected in the legislature.

In particular, a move to shrink the weight of proportional representation compared with the weight of single-seat constituencies will lead to the suppression of minority opinions. This could pave the way for autocracy by the majority, which benefits from single-seat constituencies.

In the Dec. 16 Lower House election, for example, the LDP garnered 43.1 percent of votes in the single-seat constituencies but gained 237 seats or 79 percent of the 300 seats assigned to such constituencies. The LDP also received 27.6 percent of votes in proportionally represented constituencies and won 57 seats or 31.7 percent of the 180 seats distributed to such constituencies.

The LDP’s proposal first calls for reducing the number of Lower House members from proportionally represented districts from the current 180 to 150. Then the 150 seats will be divided into a bloc of 90 seats and a bloc of 60 seats. The 90 seats will be distributed proportionally among all the parties but the remaining 60 seats will be distributed proportionally among parties except the party that has won the largest number of votes in proportionally represented districts. The current 11 such districts across the nation will be reorganized into eight such constituencies.

This system is clearly designed to give advantage to the No. 2 party — which in today’s situation is Komeito, the LDP’s junior partner in the current coalition government.

The LDP’s proposal runs counter to the principle that an electoral system must be easy for voters to understand. Because it awards preferential treatment to the No. 2 and smaller parties, there is a view that it violates the principle of equality under the law and is thus unconstitutional.

It is also pointed out that counting votes cast for smaller parties twice under the system will cause a problem related to disparity in vote value.

Political parties should make efforts to devise an electoral system for the Lower House that will both ensure representation of people’s voices that is as fair and equitable as possible and prevent overly large swings in election results.

They also need to work out an electoral system for the Upper House that will be different from the Lower House’s electoral system and will give it a more distinguished character.