The ruling triumvirate railroaded a contentious bill to revise the electoral system Friday by voting on it at an Upper House committee amid an opposition boycott.

The vote by members of the Liberal Democratic Party, New Komeito and New Conservative Party came in the ad hoc House of Councilors committee.

Opposition parties have been boycotting virtually every Diet session since last week to protest the coalition’s submission of the bill to revise the Public Offices Election Law.

The vote, which was taken with little previous notice, could further agitate the faceoff between the ruling and opposition camps.

It came as a surprise to some opposition lawmakers, although Toranosuke Katayama, the LDP’s Upper House Diet affairs committee chief, hinted earlier in the day that the bill would be put to a vote when he said, “The time is ripe.”

The Democratic Party of Japan, Japanese Communist Party, Social Democratic Party and Liberal Party quickly protested the vote in a hastily arranged rally in the Diet.

During the rally, DPJ leader Yukio Hatoyama criticized the bill, saying that it is aimed at securing the interests of the ruling parties instead of voters’. He also called on the opposition parties to display stronger unity.

The bill, if passed, would revise the proportional representation system for Upper House elections so that ballots can be cast either for candidates on party lists or for the parties themselves. The current system allows ballots to be cast only for parties.

The revisions would allocate seats to parties based on the number of votes they or their candidates receive. The parties would then assign seats to candidates in accordance with performances.

The opposition says the changes will favor the well-funded LDP bloc and make campaigning more costly.

The ruling parties, meanwhile, are intent on putting the new system in place in time for next summer’s Upper House poll.

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