The Mainichi Shimbun answers some common questions readers may have about the voting system for the presidential election of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
Question: Why is voting among rank-and-file party members drawing attention in the upcoming leadership vote?
Answer: Former LDP secretary-general Shigeru Ishiba, 61, garnered the most votes among all such party members, followed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, 63, in the LDP presidential election in 2012. LDP legislators supporting Abe are making all-out efforts to make sure that the prime minister will score an overwhelming victory over Ishiba or victory won't be so sweet, as the number of ballots allocated to ordinary party followers increased to the same number allocated to legislators this time, at 405 votes each.
Q: Will rank-and-file party members visit the polls on the election day?
A: LDP prefectural chapters will install polls during the campaigning period from Sept. 7 to 19, and there is also a vote-by-mail ballot. A postal ballot will be kept at a specified post office, and withheld until Diet members start voting at LDP headquarters on Sept. 20. They are making sure that counting votes cast by rank-and-file members and legislators will start around the same time. Ballots cast by ordinary members across Japan will be tallied after the results of local votes are sent to LDP Headquarters. Aggregate votes for each candidate will be divided by whole numbers starting from one, and ballots will be distributed in descending order until they reach 405 votes.
Q: Won't the ballots of members who voted at polls be secretly disclosed?
A: The LDP election committee has sent a notice to prefectural chapters to refrain from disclosing the number of votes until a new president is elected. It is specified in the operating procedures that a person involved in counting local votes must not disclose the results.
Q: Why do they have to be so careful?
A: Three votes were allocated to each of the prefectural chapters in the LDP presidential election in 2001, and most of the chapters disclosed their turnouts before Diet members started voting. The fact that Junichiro Koizumi garnered nearly 90 percent of votes cast by rank and file members affected the voting behavior of LDP legislators, and Ryutaro Hashimoto, who was expected to win, lost as a result. The current system reflects the lessons learned at the time. Although there aren't any penalties like in the Public Offices Election Act, the presidential election should be fair as it serves to choose someone worthy of being the next prime minister.
(Japanese original by Nozomu Takeuchi, Political News Department)