Discussions must be held on review of overall election system

While it is important to correct the disparity in vote values, this alone will not solve all the problems facing the electoral system. It is time for the ruling and opposition parties to fundamentally rethink the system.

In order to correct the disparity in vote values in the House of Representatives election, the revised Public Offices Election Law was enacted for a redistribution of seats, taking 10 seats from 10 prefectures and adding 10 seats to five prefectures. The revised law will come into effect Dec. 28, and lower house general elections to be held after that date will be based on the newly redrawn constituencies.

The 10-seat redistribution is a measure taken in connection with the introduction of the so-called Adams method, which is said to better reflect population ratios.

The Supreme Court has previously ruled a disparity of 2:1 or higher is a “state of unconstitutionality.” With the introduction of newly rezoned constituencies, the disparities based on the 2020 national census will be reduced to under 2:1.

In line with the reform, the number of municipalities that were divided into multiple constituencies will also be reduced by about 70%. A review that takes the unity of local regions into account is necessary.

The electoral rezoning will cover 140 constituencies in 25 prefectures, nearly half of the total number of constituencies. Local governments should make every effort to inform voters of the new system.

However, the review on constituency zoning cannot be said to have been completed. If the urban population continues to grow, vote-value disparities will again become 2:1 or higher. Voters will be confused if constituency boundaries are changed after every national census.

There are concerns that the emphasis on population ratios will result in an increase in the number of constituencies in urban areas while the number of seats from regional areas will decrease. A mechanism to receive the opinions from regional areas should be considered.

A quarter of a century has passed since the introduction of the current lower house election system of single-seat constituencies and proportional representation, and its adverse effects have emerged.

In a single-seat constituency, many “wasted votes” that are not reflected in Diet seats are generated because only one person can be elected in each constituency. Since a large number of votes is needed to be elected, it is easy for candidates to rely on populism to draw voters.

Many voters also have questions about the fact that the system allows candidates who were unsuccessful in the constituency race to be elected through the proportional representation segment.

The current system was introduced with the aim of realizing a two-party system and establishing politics more focused on discussing policies. In reality, the situation of one strong party and many weak parties has continued.

The ruling and opposition parties should discuss from square one what is a suitable election system for Japan, rather than merely reviewing the zoning of constituencies. Japan has fewer Diet members than European and other countries in terms of population. Increasing the number of Diet seats could be worth discussing.

It is important to eliminate maneuvering for partisan interests and to engage in thorough discussions. A long-term perspective should not be forgotten.

In the House of Councillors, the ruling and opposition parties have established a reform council and begun discussions on a new election system. Constructive discussions that extend to the roles of both chambers of the Diet must be held.

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