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2014年9月14日 (日)

脇幹事長更迭 選挙制度改革を内紛で潰すな

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Upper house electoral reform mustn’t be hampered by LDP’s internal discord
脇幹事長更迭 選挙制度改革を内紛で潰すな

Grave doubts are unavoidable as to whether the Liberal Democratic Party is tackling reform of the House of Councillors electoral system in a serious manner.

Masashi Waki, who led the upper house electoral reforms, has been replaced as secretary general of the LDP caucus in the chamber.

Chuichi Date, chairman of the LDP’s upper house Diet Affairs Committee, has been promoted to take over Waki’s post. Waki reportedly will also be removed from the chair of the electoral reform council comprising representatives from various parliamentary groups of the upper house.

As the council’s chair, Waki presented a plan for a drastic overhaul in April. To rectify the vote-value disparity, the plan calls for creating “combined constituencies” by integrating underpopulated prefectural constituencies with neighboring prefectural electoral districts, among other measures.

Originally, he proposed the creation of 11 combined constituencies, including Tottori-Shimane and Tokushima-Kochi. He later came up with a compromise plan to reduce the number of integrated electoral districts to five, which would lower the vote-value gap to 2.48-to-1.

LDP upper house members representing constituencies subject to the integration opposed the plan. Kensei Mizote, chairman of the LDP caucus in the chamber, feels greater distrust of Waki, whose opponents claim he presented the reform plan and went ahead with council proceedings without having done consensus-building spadework.

For his part, Waki has publicly criticized the LDP for its reluctance to compile an electoral reform plan and sought to pursue the issue of Mizote’s responsibility for the delay, thereby deepening a rift within the party.

The chair of the LDP caucus in the upper chamber has the authority to name a secretary general for a one-year term. Mizote suggested replacing Waki, citing the expiration of his one-year term, which won approval at a general meeting of LDP upper house members.

Don’t quash reform drive

Waki’s impartial leadership of the council, however, was appreciated by opposition parties. The party’s continued passive stance toward electoral reforms is irresponsible, as the LDP holds the largest share of seats in the upper chamber. It cannot be helped if the recent replacement of Waki is criticized as a move aimed at halting the reform drive.

The LDP has an unwritten rule that its leadership in the House of Representatives cannot interfere with the personnel and other affairs of the upper house. Without sitting back and watching how things develop, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe must display leadership to prevent the electoral reform drive from losing momentum.

Concerning the upper house poll in July last year that recorded a maximum disparity of 4.77-to-1, the gap was determined by 14 high courts and their branches across the country as “being in a state of unconstitutionality” or “unconstitutional.” The Supreme Court will hand down its judgments on appeals of those cases before the year-end. The correction of vote-value disparity is an urgent matter that must be fixed.

There is little time left for deliberations on electoral reform, as a new system will take effect from the next upper house poll set for 2016.

How to deal with the proposal on combined constituencies will be a focal point.

Seen as a plan aimed at correcting the disparity while maintaining the current system that combines constitutional and national proportional representation bloc elections, the proposal is supported by the Democratic Party of Japan and People’s Life Party.

If the combined constituencies are to be adopted, it is indispensable to coordinate the selection of a candidate to run in such electoral districts. The LDP must accelerate efforts to consolidate intraparty opinions on concrete steps, including on the choice of candidates, and hold a constructive debate at the upper chamber’s election system reform council.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 13, 2014)Speech


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