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An Upper House special electoral reform committee got off to a rough start Monday as opposition lawmakers boycotted the first meeting to protest the ruling bloc’s forcible move to revise the chamber’s election roster system.

Amid protests from opposition lawmakers, committee members from the Liberal Democratic Party, New Komeito and the New Conservative Party elected Hiroyuki Kurata, an LDP member, as chairman of the panel.

The session was to open at 1 p.m., but was delayed by 40 minutes as members of four major opposition parties — the Democratic Party of Japan, Japanese Communist Party, Social Democratic Party and Liberal Party — blocked the entrance to the committee room, locking out some coalition members.

DPJ Secretary General Naoto Kan said later in the day that the opposition camp is ready to boycott a Lower House plenary session today.

The four opposition parties are putting up a united front against the coalition’s move to change the present roster system for candidates nominated in the proportional representation segment of Upper House polls. Currently, parties predetermine the priority of proportional representation candidates.

The coalition now intends to introduce a new system under which voters choose either a party or a candidate. The parties, then, would allocate seats in a way to reflect individual candidates’ performance at the polls.

The opposition camp claims the coalition-proposed system will force candidates to engage in expensive nationwide campaigns.

They also say votes cast in support of popular candidates will give a boost to other candidates on the same roster and help them win seats.

The opposition also claims that the ruling camp is ignoring an agreement reached among major parties in February that the Upper House roster system will not be changed before next year’s elections.

Of the four opposing parties, all but the DPJ refused to submit lists of committee members. Upper House Speaker Juro Saito, whose LDP membership is on hold while he is at the post, appointed panel members from the opposition parties Friday.

Those forcibly appointed tendered their resignations from the panel Monday.

However, the Upper House speaker refused to accept the resignations.

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