Govt OK’s bill to redraw lower house electoral map

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Prime Minister’s Office in Tokyo

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — The government Friday adopted a bill to reduce vote-value disparities by redrawing single-seat constituency boundaries for the House of Representatives.

The bill to revise the public offices election law is expected to be enacted during the current Diet session running until December, removing 10 seats and adding 10 seats in a total of 15 of the country’s 47 prefectures.

Constituency boundaries will be redrawn for a total of 140 single-seat constituencies in a total of 25 prefectures, including 10 prefectures where the seat allocation will not change.

After enactment, the revised law will take effect a month after promulgation. The new electoral map will be applied to lower house elections after the implementation, while by-elections prior to a next lower house poll will take place under the current zoning.

The planned redrawing will eliminate one seat each in 10 prefectures — Miyagi, Fukushima, Niigata, Shiga, Wakayama, Okayama, Hiroshima, Yamaguchi, Ehime and Nagasaki — while five seats will be distributed to Tokyo, two to Kanagawa Prefecture and one each to Saitama, Chiba and Aichi prefectures.

The redistribution will reduce the maximum vote-value gap to 1.999 times from the current 2.096 times.

A government panel drew up the rezoning plan based on the 2020 census results and proposed it to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in June this year.

The bill would also allocate two new seats to the Tokyo bloc for proportional representation and one to the southern Kanto bloc. One seat each will be removed from the Tohoku, Hokuriku-Shinetsu and Chugoku blocs.

Despite persistent opposition to the rezoning plan within Kishida’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, many of whose members are elected from constituencies in rural areas, the government managed to gain approval from them by promising to start discussions for reforming the electoral system. The talks will be wrapped up possibly in 2025, when the next census takes place.

The LDP will start the process of selecting candidates in the rezoned constituencies once the bill is enacted. Tough negotiations are expected, especially for constituencies in Wakayama and Yamaguchi with many conservatives and powerful lawmakers.

In Yamaguchi, where one seat will be eliminated, the LDP had incumbent lawmakers in all four constituencies. A by-election is set to take place as early as spring next year to fill the vacancy left by the death of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

In Wakayama where one seat will be eliminated, Hiroshige Seko, LDP secretary-general in the House of Councillors, is exploring the possibility of switching to a lower house constituency.

In populous prefectures getting additional seats, Komeito, the LDP’s junior coalition partner, and opposition parties plan to field candidates aggressively.

“We hope to field candidates proactively in prefectures set to get more seats,” Komeito Secretary-General Keiichi Ishii told a press conference.

In response, Hiroshi Moriyama, the LDP’s election strategy chief, said: “We’ll have to consult with Komeito well. It’s important to discuss the way things should be in order to win more seats as the ruling coalition.”