Lawmakers from the ruling bloc on Thursday passed a contentious bill altering the way some Upper House members will be elected.

The bill was pushed through the Lower House plenary session on the strength of the ruling coalition’s majority in the chamber.

The new law introduces a voting system and abolishes 10 Upper House seats; both measures will come into force with next summer’s election.

The bill cleared the chamber’s special committee on electoral reform Wednesday despite fierce objections from the opposition.

Prior to Thursday’s plenary session vote, four major opposition parties jointly submitted a censure motion against Takao Fujii, chairman of the Lower House Steering Committee, to protest the ruling camp’s railroading of the bill. The committee shelved an alternative bill submitted by the Democratic Party of Japan earlier this week.

The censure motion against Fujii, a member of the Liberal Democratic Party, was immediately voted down by the LDP-led triumvirate.

“Today, October 26th, will be always remembered (as a day that represents the ruling camp’s recklessness) . . . What we should do now is unite and overturn the coalition government in the Upper House election next summer,” said Yukio Hatoyama, president of the DPJ.

The new electoral system proposed by the LDP and its coalition partners — New Komeito and the New Conservative Party — allows citizens to vote for either a political party or one of its candidates on a proportional representation list in Upper House elections. As a result, it would become possible for a single candidate’s votes to benefit all candidates on a list.

Under the present system, citizens are only allowed to vote for a party.

Opposition forces have long demanded that the coalition’s bill be scrapped, noting the new system will allow all of a party’s proportional representation candidates to benefit from one popular candidate, thus encouraging parties to field celebrities.

The storm kicked up by the bill evolved into a DPJ-led opposition boycott of Diet deliberations for nearly three weeks.

On Thursday, DPJ President Hatoyama praised the boycott as a success, claiming it helped voters see the defects in the ruling camp’s bill.

Criticism of the current fixed roster system mounted after former Financial Reconstruction Commission chief Kimitaka Kuze, an Upper House member of the LDP, resigned in July for having received millions of yen in benefits from private firms.

Kuze admitted after resigning that he needed the money to have his name placed higher on the LDP’s proportional representation roster.

The opposition camp has claimed the ruling camp is cashing in on the scandal to create a favorable electoral system so it can survive next summer’s Upper House poll.

The new electoral system will also reduce Upper House seats by 10 — six constituency seats and four proportional representation seats.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.