« 高浜原発「合格」 再稼働に政府支援が不可欠だ | トップページ | STAP作れず 細胞の正体は何だったのか »

2014年12月20日 (土)

社説:投票率の低下 もはや国民的な課題に

December 19, 2014(Mainichi Japan)
Editorial: Conquering decline in voter turnout has become national challenge
社説:投票率の低下 もはや国民的な課題に

The declining voter turnout could shake the foundations of Japan's democracy. The voter turnout in the Dec. 14 House of Representatives election hit a postwar low of 52.66 percent in single-seat constituencies, down 6.66 points from the previous low in 2012.

It is true that the general election was abruptly called without points of contention that drew much attention from voters. Still, the problem is all the more serious because the downward trend in voter turnout in Japan is seen in both national and local elections. All levels of government should seriously consider measures to halt this damaging trend.

Even though the Dec. 14 lower house election was an opportunity for voters to select which party should take power, nearly half of Japanese voters did not bother to cast a ballot. The turnout did not reach 60 percent in any of the country's 47 prefectures. Moreover, the figure fell below 50 percent in eight prefectures -- Aomori, Miyagi, Toyama, Ishikawa, Ehime, Tokushima, Fukuoka and Miyazaki. It was commonly held that voter turnout tends to be higher in rural areas than urban regions, but this is no longer true.

The voter turnout in national elections declined sharply in the December 2012 lower house election, which swept the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) back into power, and the figure for the 2013 House of Councillors election was the third lowest in history. Experts say this is largely because votes of many of those who do not support any particular political party have nowhere to go.

Additionally, voter turnouts in local elections remain low, as was seen in the last Tokyo gubernatorial election earlier this year. Professor Masao Matsumoto, head of Saitama University's Social Survey Research Center and an expert in voting trend analysis, pointed out that the turnout declined in 14 of 18 mayoral elections held in Saitama Prefecture in 2013 compared to the polls previous. He then warned that it is a serious problem that the number of people casting ballots in elections for public office has been declining. The declining voter turnout should be understood as a structural problem.

If fewer voters go to the polls, it will increase the distance between voters and local and national governments, shaking the foundations of Japanese democracy. To prevent that, it goes without saying that political parties and individual candidates must hold in-depth debate that can draw attention from the public, while voters must be fully aware of the weight of their votes.

In particular, it is an urgent task to implement measures to raise the voter turnout among young people. The minimum voting age should be lowered from the current 20 to 18 from the standpoint of nurturing young people's awareness as sovereign citizens of Japan's democracy, and encouraging these people to make a habit of going out to vote. At schools, students should have more opportunities to learn about elections through mock voting and policy debate so that they become interested in elections before they reach adulthood.

It is also important to create an environment in which voters can cast their ballots more easily. Poll hours should be extended beyond 8 p.m., and the number of polling stations should be increased to encourage voters to use the early voting system.

As the population is aging rapidly, it is feared that a growing number of senior citizens will be unable to go to polling stations. It is indispensable to redistribute polling stations, which have decreased in number as a result of municipal mergers, and take other steps to help elderly people go to the polls. The government should also consider allowing voters to cast their ballots at any polling station in their constituency.

The Public Offices Election Act, which places strict regulations on election campaigns -- such as a ban on door-to-door canvassing -- should be reviewed, but there are many things that local governments can improve at their own discretion. Local elections to be held across the country next spring are an opportunity to put the brakes on the decline in voter turnout.

毎日新聞 2014年12月19日 02時30分


« 高浜原発「合格」 再稼働に政府支援が不可欠だ | トップページ | STAP作れず 細胞の正体は何だったのか »





« 高浜原発「合格」 再稼働に政府支援が不可欠だ | トップページ | STAP作れず 細胞の正体は何だったのか »