The Liberal Democratic Party and its ally Komeito on April 23 passed through the Lower House a bill designed to rectify the disparity in single-seat constituency vote value in a Lower House election between depopulated rural areas and populated urban areas.
Even if this bill becomes a law, it represents only makeshift electoral reform. Both the ruling and opposition parties should carefully consider what kind of reform will ensure fair and rational representation of people and strengthen the legislative function of the Diet.
There is a tendency among both the ruling and opposition forces to regard reducing the number of Diet seats as true reform. But it is no such thing. It is pseudo-reform that would lead to suppression of minority opinions represented by minor parties in the Diet.
With a fewer number of Diet members, the Diet would also face difficulty in carrying out thorough deliberations on each of many legislative bills. In principle, reducing the number of people’s representatives is unconscionable.
Reduction of Diet seats as called for by these parties — the Liberal Democratic Party, Komeito, the Democratic Party of Japan, the Japan Restoration Party and Your Party — will only cripple the function of the Diet.
The bill was prompted by a series of recent high court rulings that have found the Dec. 16 Lower House election either unconstitutional or “in a state of unconstitutionality” because the maximum disparity in vote value was too large — at 2.425 times.
In a March 2011 ruling, the Supreme Court said that the maximum disparity should be less than two times.
Specifically the bill aims to reduce the total number of seats from single-seat constituencies by one each in Fukui, Yamanashi, Tokushima, Kochi and Saga prefectures and change the demarcation of 42 single-seat constituencies in Tokyo and 16 prefectures. This would hold down the maximum vote disparity to 1.998 times.
In the Lower House plenary voting, the LDP and Komeito voted for the bill while the DPJ, Your Party, the Japan Communist Party, People’s Life Party and the Social Democratic Party voted against it. The Japan Restoration Party members did not show up.
Since the opposition forces control the Upper House, the Diet chamber may not take a vote on the bill. Even so, the ruling coalition of the LDP and Komeito can eventually enact the bill into a law by voting again for the bill in the Lower House with a two-thirds or more vote in accordance with a constitutional provision.
Toward the end of 2012, the LDP, the DPJ and Komeito agreed on the need to reduce the number of Diet seats as part of “fundamental electoral reform.” They should scrap this agreement because reduction of Diet seats will only undermine parliamentary democracy.
The number of Diet members relative to a population is not large compared with European countries such as Britain, France and Germany.
Political parties should stop devoting energy to this pseudo-reform and people should not be duped by their wrong moves.