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Editorial: LDP's makeshift plan to reduce vote-value disparity is unacceptable

A plan proposed by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to decrease the number of single-seat constituencies in the House of Representatives by six to rectify vote-value disparity is highly likely to be passed into law during the ongoing Diet session.

The LDP's plan prioritizes its intraparty affairs and would postpone the introduction of the Adams' method of distributing seats in the legislature, which better reflects the population ratio, beyond 2020. Such a makeshift measure is unacceptable.

Under the LDP plan, a single-seat constituency would be cut each in six prefectures with the least population per legislator out of 15 prefectures that would be subject to seat reductions if calculated with the Adams' method based on the results of the 2015 population census. At the same time, a seat would be slashed each in four proportional representation blocs. The LDP claims that the party can fulfill its political pledge to reduce the number of lower house seats by 10.

The LDP apparently wants to say it is using part of the basic ideas behind the Adams' method, which an advisory panel to the lower chamber speaker on electoral system reform urged the legislature to introduce. However, such logic is unreasonable. The only possible reason why the LDP is attempting to avoid drastically slashing the number of single-seat constituencies is to limit protests from potentially affected legislators.

Moreover, though the LDP's plan calls for the introduction of the Adams' method after the 2020 population census, the actual application of the system in lower house elections is expected to come sometime after 2022. No one can tell how many lower house elections will be called until then because the prime minister is authorized to dissolve the chamber for a snap election before its members' four-year term expires. The LDP says it will incorporate a clause stating that the Adams' method will be introduced in 2020 at the earliest in a relevant bill. However, the legislation could be revised to postpone introducing the method if the political situation is to change.

It is also difficult to understand why Komeito has accepted the LDP's plan although the LDP's junior coalition partner had initially voiced stiff opposition to delaying the introduction of the Adams' method.

The ruling coalition is poised to have the bill pass both houses of the Diet during the ongoing Diet session even if opposition parties attempt to bloc such a move. The ruling coalition can technically do so because the bloc has a majority in both houses of the Diet. However, reform of the electoral system, which covers the fundamental rules on electing legislators, should be carried out at least with agreement between the governing bloc and the main opposition parties.

Many legislators with the ruling coalition are talking about the possibility that the prime minister will call a "double election" of both houses of the Diet this coming summer. However, if the LDP's plan on electoral reform is to be enacted during the current Diet session, the new system could not be introduced in time for such elections.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and members of the ruling bloc appear to believe that if the Diet revises relevant legislation to pave the way for electoral system reform, courts would not rule that the next lower house election is unconstitutional. Such an attitude suggests that the ruling bloc is aiming to create an environment in which a double election can be held, and reflects the ruling bloc's disregard for the judicial branch and the Constitution.

In the meantime, the largest opposition Democratic Party (DP) has proposed to increase the number of single-seat districts by seven in urban areas, decrease them by 13 in rural regions, increase one seat in the most populated proportional representation bloc and decrease one each in five blocs using the Adams' method based on the 2010 census. The DP's plan fully respects a proposal made by the advisory panel to the lower house speaker, and is more understandable to the public.

After deeming it difficult for the ruling and opposition parties to unify their reform proposals, lower chamber Speaker Tadamori Oshima urged the LDP and DP to submit their respective plans to the Diet. It is not too late for the LDP and Komeito to change their policy and jointly sponsor the DP plan.

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