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2013年1月 9日 (水)


--The Asahi Shimbun, Jan. 8
EDITORIAL: Diet must establish procedures to deal with ‘invalid’ election results

Next week, trials will start across the nation concerning the gap in the value of a vote between the most and the least populous Lower House constituencies. Lawsuits seeking nullification of the results of the Dec. 16 Lower House election have been filed in 34 single-seat electoral districts.

Immediately before the Lower House dissolution in November for the snap election, the Diet passed bills to reduce the number of single-seat constituencies by one in each of five prefectures to reduce the disparity gap. However, there was not enough time to redraw the boundaries of constituencies. As a result, the Dec. 16 election was held under the current allocation of seats, which was declared by the Supreme Court in March 2011 to be “in a state of unconstitutionality” and “against the equality under the law.”

The Diet failed to correct this inequality for as long as one year and eight months after the top court’s ruling. There is no doubt that the legislature could have taken some remedial measures during the period. It is clear that the Dec. 16 election was unconstitutional.

If a court hands down a ruling that shows sympathy to the lawmakers’ excuse that more time was needed to tackle the problem, the public’s criticism will be directed beyond the Diet and at the court.

Attention is now focused on which direction the courts will take. The courts could rule that the election results are valid although the election itself is unconstitutional. Such a decision would take into consideration concerns that nullifying the election would cause serious confusion. Or the courts could rule that the results of the election are invalid.

The Supreme Court has never declared the results of an election to be invalid in similar vote-value disparity cases. There is no denying that the top court’s cautious attitude in dealing with the issue has allowed the Diet to drag its feet on tackling this serious problem, disappointing public expectations in the judiciary.

To be fair, however, we should also consider one important factor that has been behind the top court’s attitude: The Diet has yet to enact legislation on procedures to be taken when the results of an election are ruled invalid.

If the results of an election for specific districts are finally confirmed invalid in the judicial process, the Diet members elected from the districts will lose their seats, making it necessary to hold a fresh election to fill the vacancies. This process will require revising the law concerning allocation of seats and zoning of electoral districts.

In such a case, only lawmakers who have retained their seats will deliberate the bills. But is such a situation tolerable? Besides, what will they set as the time limit for the fresh election? Since the election system as a whole has so many shortcomings, this is not a problem that can be solved by simply holding an election again for certain districts. The most reasonable way to deal with the situation is to call another Lower House election after making necessary revisions. But this approach would raise questions concerning the Cabinet’s right to dissolve the Lower House.

Measures should also be worked out to address the same problem with the Upper House, which is not dissolved for a snap election.

These issues have been pointed out since more than 30 years ago. But the Diet has left them as they are.

The judiciary has been reluctant to declare election results invalid in consideration of various concerns, while the legislature has been neglecting to take necessary actions despite being well aware of the problem. As a result, Japanese voters have been denied their right to equal treatment in elections. This outrageous situation must end immediately.

The Diet has a duty to establish a fair election system that doesn’t raise any questions on constitutionality or validity.

But the Diet would not be acting inappropriately if it decided on procedures that minimize the resulting confusion after elections are declared invalid.

Such an effort is a totally reasonable response that should be taken by the legislature of any nation under the rule of law.


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