Upper House members of the ruling coalition ignored fierce opposition protests and voted for a contentious bill to revise the chamber’s electoral system during a plenary session Thursday afternoon.
The bill was immediately sent to the Lower House, where it is expected to be passed into law next week.
Opposition lawmakers walked out in protest before the ruling triumvirate — the Liberal Democratic Party, New Komeito and the New Conservative Party — voted for the bill, which will allow the electorate to vote for either an individual or a party in the proportional representation portion of Upper House elections.
The opposition bloc made every effort to delay Diet proceedings before the chamber could vote on the bill.
At the outset of the session, the opposition camp submitted a no-confidence motion against newly elected Upper House President Yutaka Inoue; both ruling and opposition forces had voted for him earlier in the day.
Opposition members also made lengthy speeches before the vote on the motion, which was inevitably defeated due to the coalition’s majority in the chamber.
“The chaos at the Diet has been finally unsnarled, though not quite completely,” LDP Secretary General Hiromu Nonaka said after the Upper House passage of the electoral reform bill. “The Diet situation can take a new turn.”
Satsuki Eda of the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan saw the process in darker terms.
“I don’t think the people will be deceived (by the way the ruling camp justifies itself),” he said. “The people are wise enough.”
Eda was one of three opposition lawmakers who made speeches in support of the no-confidence motion.
Later he noted that the DPJ is now ready to return to deliberations in the Upper House.
“Since we are moving on, it is natural for the Diet to have intense debates,” he said.
The DPJ and other opposition forces have been united in boycotting Diet deliberations for nearly three weeks in the face of the coalition’s determination to revise the electoral law. Now that the bill has been sent to the Lower House, some opposition members are suggesting an end to the boycott.
LDP Upper House member Inoue, a former education minister, was formally elected as House of Councilors president after the resignation of his predecessor, Juro Saito, was approved in the morning session.
Saito tendered his resignation Wednesday after failing to mediate a compromise over the electoral system.
Inoue, who won 222 of the 239 votes cast, said that although the appointment was “unexpected,” he would make his utmost efforts to fulfill his mission as Upper House president.
The row centers around a new polling system proposed by the ruling bloc that would widen proportional representation balloting to include individuals. The bill was rammed through an Upper House committee last week during the opposition’s boycott.
The coalition’s planned revision from the current “fixed roster” to the “open roster” system would allocate seats to parties based on the number of votes the parties and their candidates receive. The parties would then assign seats to candidates in accordance with their individual performances.
The current system allows ballots to be cast only for parties, not individual candidates on party rosters.
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