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2014年4月27日 (日)

参院選制度改革 「合区」案は受け入れられるか

The Yomiuri Shimbun 7:40 pm, April 26, 2014
Parties must accelerate study on upper house poll reform plan
参院選制度改革 「合区」案は受け入れられるか

It is understandable that a reform proposal is intended to correct the vote-value disparity in the House of Councillors election and resolve a situation denounced by courts as being in “a state of unconstitutionality.” However, it is questionable whether the proposal will be able to fully reflect the voices of people in depopulated areas in national politics.

Discussions must be deepened based on the proposal.

The proposal has been submitted by Masashi Waki, secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party’s upper house caucus, who chairs the upper chamber election reform council. The reform plan calls for integrating constituencies that have small numbers of voters per lawmaker with neighboring electoral districts. It is a plan with great impact.

Eleven combined constituencies, including Tottori/Shimane, Tokushima/Kochi and Osaka/Wakayama, will be created, while the number of seats contested every three years will be increased by one each in Tokyo, Kanagawa and four other constituencies. As a result, Tokyo will have a total of six seats up for grabs every three years, and the number of single-seat constituencies will be reduced to 17.

Under this plan, it is said the maximum gap in vote values would instantly shrink from 4.77-to-1 to 1.83-to-1.

The proposal could be regarded as a “drastic reform” even though it maintains the current framework of a total of 242 upper house seats being chosen through elections in constituencies and the national representation bloc, with half of the seats contested in elections every three years. The term for upper house members is six years.

As Waki put forth an ambitious plan to hold down the vote-value disparity to less than 2-to-1, reorganized constituencies transcending long-standing prefectural borders will directly affect a total of 22 prefectures.

Resistance likely

Resistance is anticipated against combining constituencies with different cultures and history.

Especially in connection with the plan to combine constituencies in which one seat is up for grabs every three years, there is a great possibility that dissatisfaction will mount on the part of prefectures with smaller populations. They are expected to complain “we can no longer send our delegates to the upper chamber.”

It will become necessary for political parties to coordinate such items as putting up candidates alternately from the neighboring two prefectures.

As for the proportional representation election, the reform plan calls for parties to list candidates in order of priority. This is considered to be aimed at leaving room for parties to coordinate on the selection of candidates, but there is no denying it will create a complicated system.

The parties with seats in the upper house are scheduled to compile their views next month based on the proposal offered by Waki. He aims to obtain a consensus on the reform plan during the current Diet session, but opinions remain apart.

The LDP has no specific reform plan for now. Its coalition partner, New Komeito, insists on adopting a large constituency system by dividing electoral districts into 11 blocs, while the Democratic Party of Japan is studying a plan to reduce the fixed number of upper house seats by about 40. The Japanese Communist Party and other parties call for introducing a full proportional representation election system.

The number of Diet members in relation to the population is far from overwhelming compared with other countries. Thus, cuts in the fixed number of seats as asserted by the DPJ should be detached from discussions on the reform plan offered this time.

The parties must step up their study of the reform plan ahead of the next upper house poll, set for 2016, when the new system is targeted to be adopted.

Should the rectification of vote-value disparities be a top-priority issue? How should roles and functions be divided between the House of Representatives and the upper house? Discussions on these essential issues are also indispensable.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 26, 2014)


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