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Editorial: LDP's resistance to vote value gap amendment in Japan exposes selfishness

Opposition to plans to rezone single-seat constituencies in the House of Representatives to rectify the problem of vote weight disparity in elections has erupted among Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

    It was the LDP that took the lead in revising related legislation in 2016 to introduce the "Adams method" that makes it easier to reflect population ratios in the distribution of seats.

    Based on the finalized results of the 2020 Census announced in November 2021, implementation of this method means increasing the number of seats by a total of 10 in five prefectures including Tokyo and Aichi, and abolishing one seat each in 10 other prefectures including Miyagi, Fukushima, Wakayama, Hiroshima and Yamaguchi.

    It is expected that the changes will be applied from the next lower house election, after a government council submits rezoning recommendations to the prime minister by June this year.

    Within the LDP, however, there have been moves to apply the brakes to such revisions. Lower house Speaker Hiroyuki Hosoda stated in November last year, "Regional reductions and urban increases alone are not effective." Such a statement coming from the speaker of the chamber, who is responsible for summing up discussions, defies common sense -- and Hosoda was among those who sponsored the 2016 amendment bill.

    Former LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai, a representative of the Wakayama No. 3 constituency in the lower house, criticized the plan in January this year, saying, "It's unwanted. It's irritating." Meanwhile, Hiroshige Seko, secretary-general of the LDP caucus in the House of Councillors, who represents the Wakayama district in the chamber, has instead called for an increase in the number of seats in urban areas so that the seats in regional areas don't need to be reduced.

    Behind the LDP's resistance is the fact that the move would make it difficult to arrange within the party which candidates to officially back in elections. LDP incumbents hold many seats in areas earmarked for seat reductions, and in Yamaguchi Prefecture, this would likely affect party heavyweights such as former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi.

    Legislators decided to introduce the Adams method after the Supreme Court deemed the situation in the three lower house elections in 2009, 2012 and 2014 -- where the disparity in the value of votes between the least and most populated single-seat constituencies exceeded a factor of 2 -- as being in a "state of unconstitutionality."

    Delaying amendments is an act that makes light of a judicial decision. It is no more than a selfish attempt to renege on rules that legislators themselves made. First of all, the disparity should be corrected in accordance with the law.

    Within the LDP, there are deep-rooted views that the system would make it difficult for the voices of people in regional areas to reach the government. It is important to broadly reflect the will of the people in national affairs, but that does not warrant leaving the vote value gap unaddressed.

    The election system is an important framework that determines the composition of the Diet. Legislators must not neglect efforts to minimize the disparity.

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