In a lawsuit filed by a group of lawyers, the Tokyo High Court on Nov. 17 ruled that the Upper House election held in July — in which the vote-value disparity between constituencies reached a maximum 5.00 to 1 — was unconstitutional.

The court refrained from declaring the election results invalid to avoid confusion. Still, it’s the first ruling to find an Upper House election unconstitutional since the Osaka High Court, in 1993, declared the 1992 Upper House election unconstitutional (the maximum vote-value disparity then was 6.59 to 1).

The Tokyo High Court ruling said a situation in which vote values are extremely unequal has lasted too long and that it discriminates against voters depending on where they live. In a similar lawsuit, the same court earlier the same day ruled that the Upper House election in question was constitutional, but opined that the Diet should take prompt action to equalize vote value, as called for by the Constitution. The two rulings clearly show the need for the Diet to quickly rectify the current situation in accordance with the spirit of Article 14 of the Constitution, which guarantees equality under the law and prohibits discrimination in political, economic or social relations.

In the July Upper House election, the maximum vote-value disparity existed between Kanagawa Prefecture and Tottori Prefecture. In Kanagawa, Ms. Keiko Chiba of the Democratic Party of Japan, then justice minister, failed to be re-elected after getting some 696,000 votes. In Tottori, Mr. Kazuyuki Hamada of the Liberal Democratic Party was elected for the first time, garnering some 158,000 votes.

Up to now the Diet has tried to narrow vote-value disparity by reducing the number of seats in less populated constituencies and increasing it in more populated areas. This won’t work anymore. The Diet should consider changing the current system combining voting district representation with proportional representation.

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