社説:参院選挙改革 自民の身勝手さに驚く

September 13, 2014(Mainichi Japan)
Editorial: LDP's selfishness exposed in friction over electoral reform
社説:参院選挙改革 自民の身勝手さに驚く

It has been said that achieving consensus over reform of the electoral system for the House of Councillors is no easy task. But the utter confusion within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leaves us dumbfounded.
Masashi Waki, an LDP legislator who heads a consultative body on electoral reform for the upper house, laid out a new reform plan at a meeting of the panel on Sept. 11. The consultative body comprises both ruling and opposition party members, focusing on how to correct vote-value disparities among upper house constituencies.

Waki's proposal, however, met a backlash from within the LDP. The following day, the party decided to dismiss him from the post of secretary-general of its upper house caucus. Waki is also expected to be ousted as head of the consultative body.

The ruling and opposition camps are now likely to face difficulties reaching an agreement over the issue by the end of the year -- the initial target deadline. The incident exposes the LDP's selfishness and reluctance to engage in electoral reform.

At the Sept. 11 meeting, Waki proposed a plan to merge 10 prefectural constituencies into five electoral districts -- modifying an original plan to integrate 22 prefectural constituencies into 11 electoral zones. However, LDP legislators -- especially those whose electoral districts were to be affected by the plan -- expressed dissatisfaction with the proposal.

When Waki first presented the proposal of merging upper house constituencies, Kensei Mizote, head of the LDP's upper house caucus, reportedly resisted, saying, "This is the first that I've heard of it." His response reveals a fundamental lack of intra-party coordination within the LDP.

So far, the party has produced no workable alternative. It cannot escape criticism that its legislators, with their vested interests, are inherently reluctant to implement electoral reform.

Ahead of the recent Cabinet reshuffle, there was a move within the LDP's upper house caucus to have Waki appointed as a Cabinet minister, in order to unseat him from the head of the consultative body on electoral reform. The attempt to oust Waki failed after he refused the proposed appointment. The idea of linking a ministerial appointment to legislators' own electoral interests leaves us astonished.

The merger proposal may not be the best plan, but it is one possible method to rectify vote-value disparities among electoral districts. Some opposition party members have voiced support for the plan. Even within the LDP, a number have reportedly endorsed the plan, saying they may have no other choice. Waki, on the other hand, doesn't seem to have made sufficient efforts to ease conflict within the LDP, as all he did was to denounce Mizote and other opponents of the plan.

The Supreme Court has ruled that the 2010 upper house election was held "in a state of unconstitutionality." A supplementary provision was subsequently added to the revised Public Offices Election Law, stating that a drastic review of the electoral system would be carried out ahead of the next upper house election to be called in 2016. However, the Diet has thus far only taken the stop-gap measure of reducing the number of seats in the most sparsely populated constituencies by four and increasing that in the most densely populated districts by four. There is little time left to conduct drastic electoral reform for the upper chamber.

In the meantime, a third-party advisory panel to the speaker of the House of Representatives has started discussing reform of the lower house electoral system. This has sparked criticism from Waki and other LDP members. They say it is irresponsible for lawmakers to leave their own electoral system in the hands of a third-party organization. The members stressed that upper house legislators were carrying out reforms "on their own."

Now, however, it seems that the upper chamber will also end up having to outsource the task to a third-party body, as the LDP is making no ground in coordinating the opinions of its members.

毎日新聞 2014年09月13日 02時32分

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