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2012年12月25日 (火)

衆院小選挙区制 得票と議席の差が開き過ぎる

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 25, 2012)
Electoral system needs sweeping, objective reform
衆院小選挙区制 得票と議席の差が開き過ぎる(12月24日付・読売社説)

How should the representatives of the people be elected? We believe the current electoral system is in need of drastic reform based on the results of the Dec. 16 House of Representatives election.

During policy talks ahead of forming a coalition government, the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito agreed on major reforms to the electoral system of the lower house, including reducing the number of seats. Their plan is based on an accord made with the Democratic Party of Japan before the election. Deliberations on the reform package will begin in the ordinary Diet session to be convened next month.

With the current system comprising both single-seat constituencies and proportional representation blocs, the first task will be to sort out the problems associated with this structure.

The general elections of 2005, 2009 and 2012 all resulted in the party that won a plurality gaining about 300 seats--an overwhelming margin over the other parties.

In the 300 single-seat constituencies this time, the LDP received 1.9 times more votes than the DPJ but ended up with 8.8 times more seats. Although this is a hallmark of the single-seat constituency system, many voters likely felt uneasy about this huge gap between votes and seats.


Big swings

The single-seat constituency system was supposed to help facilitate the creation of stable governments through a simple method of expressing the preference of the majority of voters.

However, the last three general elections have resulted in big swings in the distribution of seats among the parties. The system puts ruling parties at a bigger risk of being swept out of power in a general election if they lose support from only a few voters.

This discourages ruling parties from presenting clear policies on divisive issues due to fear of a backlash from certain voting blocs or special-interest groups.

One such example from the last election is the failure of both the LDP and the DPJ to take a clear stand on whether Japan should take part in the ongoing negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade framework.

The system also has led to the mass election of new faces supported by influential politicians--referred to scornfully as "children" or "girls"--only to see these same lawmakers lose in large numbers in the next poll.

Even in districts where the competition is not especially fierce, lawmakers are forced to spend much of their time campaigning locally, thereby ignoring the national scene.

Lawmakers who are elected from proportional representation blocs or who have weak support bases tend to trumpet populist policies. Doing this only to win elections has led to political chaos.


Reform should not be partisan

Politicians only become skilled in dealing with the bureaucracy after they deepen their knowledge of governing through several terms in office. However, the current electoral system only hampers the realization of politics led by politicians.

Former Prime Minister Naoto Kan was defeated in his single-seat constituency but was able to retain his seat as he was elected from a proportional representation bloc for which he had also filed his candidacy. It is hard to accept the existence of such a double candidacy.

These problems have led some ruling and opposition party lawmakers to call for reinstating multiple-seat constituencies. Their voices should not be ignored.

Electoral reforms necessarily involve partisan interests, so the issue should be discussed objectively by experts, not political parties.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 24, 2012)
(2012年12月24日01時20分  読売新聞)


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