Nearly 60 percent of the 300 winners in single-seat constituencies in Sunday’s House of Representatives general election were endorsed by less than 30 percent of the voters in their electoral districts, analyses of the results show.
The data apparently highlights the inherent problem of the winner-takes-all electoral district system, in which votes cast for candidates other than the winner are effectively “dead votes” because they have no impact on results.
Low voter turnout amid Sunday’s inclement weather — the second-worst turnout ever, at 62.49 percent — also resulted in many candidates being returned despite the support of just a tiny portion of their local electorate.
Of the 300 winners, 171 were elected even though fewer than 30 percent of the eligible voters in their constituencies cast ballots for them.
The level is calculated by counting the total number of eligible voters, including those who abstained. The figure tends to be lower for winners in constituencies where the turnout was low.
Nobuko Okashita, of the Liberal Democratic Party, who was elected for the first time from the Osaka No. 17 district, won even though only 13 percent of the eligible voters backed her.
Okashita’s slim victory was followed by Hirohisa Fujii, secretary general of the Liberal Party from the Kanagawa No. 14 district, with 15.1 percent, and Yoko Kamikawa, an independent from the Shizuoka No. 1 constituency, with 15.5 percent.
Of the 30 winners with the lowest vote-collecting ratio, the Democratic Party of Japan accounted for 11, followed by the LDP with 10. New Komeito and the Social Democratic Party had two each.
Many of these candidates were in urban districts in Tokyo, Osaka and Kanagawa prefectures, where competition between rival candidates was fiercest.
On the other hand, LDP candidates accounted for 28 of the top 30 winners with the best vote-collecting ratio. Many of them were elected from traditionally conservative, rural electoral districts.
The LDP’s Koichi Yamamoto had the best results, gathering votes from 54.6 percent of eligible voters in his Ehime No. 4 constituency.
Yamamoto was closely followed by Wataru Takeshita, the younger brother of the late Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita, who was elected from the Shimane No. 2 constituency. The elder Takeshita, who had announced his retirement, died just six days before the election.
Two other “hereditary candidates” whose relatives died shortly before the election — Yuko Obuchi, daughter of the late Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, and Hiroshi Kajiyama, son of the late former LDP Secretary General Seiroku Kajiyama — were also high on the list.
Former LDP Secretary General Koichi Kato, who once ran unsuccessfully for the LDP presidency, was ranked fourth, while in eighth place was Makiko Tanaka, a former Science and Technology Agency chief and a popular figure in her Niigata constituency.
Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori was ranked 13th with 46.7 percent of votes from his Ishikawa No. 2 constituency.
The current system, which combines single-seat constituencies with proportional representation, was introduced as part of the electoral reform package of 1994. Sunday’s poll was the second general election held under the system, with 300 seats chosen through single-seat districts nationwide and 180 from proportional representation.
The single-seat system tends to favor candidates from major established political parties to the disadvantage of minority forces. Critics say the system fails to correctly reflect the will of the electorate in Diet seats.