The ruling Democratic Party of Japan and the conservative Liberal Democratic Party might shelve an electoral reform proposal that would cut proportional representation seats in the Lower House to prevent smaller political parties from shrinking, sources said Saturday.
The Supreme Court ruled in March that the current electoral system is “in a state of unconstitutionality” because a disparity was observed in vote weights in some districts during the House of Representatives election in August 2009. The vote weight disparity was as high as to 2.3 to one.
Both the DPJ and the LDP have pledged to reduce the number of proportional representation seats — by 80 and 30, respectively — to narrow the disparity.
But New Komeito, the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party are opposed because they fear that public opinion won’t be reflected in the national policymaking process if the cuts are made and their tiny parties get even smaller.
Veteran lawmaker Shizuka Kamei, head of Kokumin Shinto (People’s New Party), the DPJ’s junior coalition partner, also said recently that the powerful lower chamber should be reformed in a way that values the contributions of small parties like his.
Given the circumstances, a DPJ senior lawmaker said, “The reduction in the number of proportional representation seats will be postponed,” while an LDP lawmaker said, “We should think at first how we could make the next Lower House election return to a state of constitutionality.”
Postponement of the reduction will stir criticism in the DPJ because the action is called for in its manifesto, observers noted.
Postal deadlock broken
New Komeito has decided to attend Diet debates on postal privatization, breaking a government deadlock on addressing the issue, sources close to the matter said Saturday.
It is now likely that the Buddhist-backed opposition party will conditionally support the postal bills, paving the way for their enactment.
New Komeito has proposed that the government sell off its stake in Japan Post as a way to reduce the size of tax increases for financing disaster reconstruction. But the selloff cannot happen until the postal reform bills are enacted, because a 2009 law froze the sale of the government’s stake in Japan Post.
The People’s New Party, part of the Democratic Party of Japan’s ruling coalition, has sought passage of the bills, but the opposition bloc controls the House of Councilors.
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