Deepen discussions beyond correcting vote-value disparities

Nearly half of the single-seat constituencies in the House of Representatives will be redrawn. These legal revisions must be enacted as soon as possible, and voters must be notified about the rezoning.

The government has decided on a bill to revise the Public Offices Election Law for a “10-seat increase and 10-seat decrease” change. If enacted, the revisions will be applied to the next lower house election.

The revision bill will increase by 10 the number of constituencies in five prefectures, including Tokyo and Kanagawa, and decrease by one each the number in 10 prefectures, including Wakayama and Okayama. As a result, based on the 2020 national census, the maximum disparity in vote value will be reduced from the current 2.096-to-1 to 1.999-to-1.

These changes are intended to correct vote-value disparities resulting from population changes. The aim to reduce such disparities to “lower than 2-1” as sought by the courts is understandable.

In 2016, the Diet decided to introduce the so-called Adams method of apportioning seats with more emphasis on population rate. In response, the government’s Council on the House of Representatives Electoral District recommended to the prime minister in June that constituencies be rezoned based on the Adams method.

There was strong opposition within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party to the proposed revisions, saying they would make it difficult for local voices to be heard. However, the LDP cannot allow itself to reverse the reforms it proposed. It will be reasonable to first hold elections based on the new district allocation using the Adams method.

In addition to seat reallocation, the revision bill is also aimed at eliminating situations in which one municipality is divided into multiple constituencies. The rezoning will involve 140 constituencies in 25 prefectures. It is appropriate to prioritize regional unity and redraw constituency boundaries so they are easy to understand.

In recent years, courts have placed greater emphasis on the equality of vote values. However, the depopulation of rural areas and the concentration of people in urban areas is continuing. Even if the revision bill is passed, these disparities will soon widen to more than 2-1. How long will the number of regional elected representatives be reduced under this system?

The LDP intends to set up a forum for discussion on reforming the lower house election system. It must deepen the talks on this issue, including the division of roles between the lower house and the House of Councillors.

Increasing the number of seats is an important option to correct vote-value disparities. In addition to changing the number of seats, a review of the electoral system itself should also be considered.

Twenty-six years have passed since the system of single-seat constituencies and proportional representation was introduced with the 1996 general election. Many people have doubts about the “revival victories” in proportional representation segments by candidates who lost their single-seat constituency race. The largest party’s share of seats tends to be higher than the share of the votes it receives, making it difficult for the ruling and opposition parties to compete with each other.

There is no perfect election system, but various problems should not be left unaddressed. The ruling and opposition parties need to discuss in depth what kind of election system would accurately represent the will of the people.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 23, 2022)