It’s not clear whether political priority is being given to correcting the sharp disparity in the value of votes between populous and less populous constituencies. A plan put forth by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party on reform of the Lower House electoral system calls for cutting the chamber’s seats by 10 from the current 475 but shelves a major overhaul of the way the seats are distributed across prefectures as proposed by an experts’ panel commissioned by the Lower House speaker. Abe has said he would seek to get relevant bills through the Diet during the current session, but delaying the more fundamental reform on an excuse of difficulty in building a consensus among the party’s lawmakers defeats the very purpose of electoral reform.
The LDP was initially reluctant to support cuts to Lower House seats. An earlier LDP draft said the cuts should wait until the next full-scale national census in 2020 is released, and advocated narrowing the vote-value gap by redrawing the demarcation of some single-seat constituencies. In the face of criticism that the LDP plan would postpone the seat cuts to the early 2020s at the soonest, Abe told the Diet last week that both the Lower House seat reallocation and cuts should be carried out on the basis of the summary census held in 2015, whose preliminary outcome is due out soon.