The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prompt introduction of Adams’ method crucial for lower house electoral reform
The rectification of vote-value disparities between single-seat constituencies must be given priority in carrying out reform of the electoral system for the House of Representatives. Legislative steps must be taken for that purpose during the current Diet session after quickly consolidating the opinions of political parties.
The ruling and opposition parties have presented their views on electoral system reforms to lower house Speaker Tadamori Oshima.
The Democratic Party of Japan, Komeito and the Japan Innovation Party have basically accepted the reform proposals recommended by an expert research panel. The Liberal Democratic Party, on the other hand, has agreed to cuts in the number of total seats but wants to postpone the reallocation of seats to prefectures.
The LDP’s reform plan calls for reducing the number of seats in single-seat constituencies by six and reviewing the demarcation of these constituencies, both based on a simplified census conducted in 2015, to reduce vote-value disparities to less than 2 to 1. The number of seats in proportional representation blocs would be cut by four. The party has compiled these proposals by revising the party’s draft plan at the instruction of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has called for seat cuts to be carried out more rapidly.
The LDP is studying a plan to cut one seat each in six prefectures, including Kagoshima and Iwate, without increasing seats in other prefectures. The plan also calls for a reallocation of seats to prefectures based on the census to be taken in 2020, leaving the impression that this is a stopgap measure.
The panel called for reallocating lower house seats based on the Adams’ method, under which seven seats would be added and 13 eliminated. This will reduce the maximum vote-value gap between prefectures to 1.621 to 1 and likely hold the disparities between constituencies to less than 2 to 1.
LDP’s concession vital
The LDP has put off the plan on the reallocation of seats to prefectures because of strong internal opposition to and cautious views against the panel’s reform proposals, which would affect incumbent lawmakers of the prefectures subject to the 13 cuts.
The LDP must not make light of the fact that the ruling and opposition parties promised to respect the panel’s recommendations after entrusting it to study the situation following their failure to reach an agreement on reform plans. The LDP will have no alternative but to reconsider the reform plans, as the Adams’ method has been approved by other major parties.
It is desirable to revise the electoral system, the foundation of democracy, with the approval of as many parties as possible. Abe has suggested he will aim to pass related bills through the current Diet session. As an overwhelmingly dominant force in the Diet, the LDP has the responsibility to lead consensus-building efforts on the reform.
It is disappointing, however, that major parties still hold on to the idea of cutting the total seat number.
The panel proposed cutting 10 seats only in consideration of parties’ pledges to the people that the number of seats would be cut, as it said that “it is difficult to find appropriate reasons or logical basis” for cutting the total seat number.
If the seat number is reduced, diverse public opinions may not be reflected in elections. The legislature’s monitoring of the administrative branch through deliberations on government-proposed bills could be weakened. The number of Japanese lawmakers in relation to the national population is no greater than in some European countries and elsewhere.
It must be taken into consideration that if the number of total seats is reduced, it will become more difficult and troublesome to correct vote disparities.
When lawmakers are asked to accept reforms that are painful to themselves, they should do it by agreeing to cuts in subsidies to political parties rather than by decreasing seat numbers.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 23, 2016)