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Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012

DPJ fix for vote-value gap wins panel nod


Staff writer

The ruling Democratic Party of Japan voted Monday in an opposition-boycotted Lower House committee to back its legislation aimed at rectifying the national disparity in vote values, which is threatening the constitutionality of Japan's elections.

The bills, which are expected to clear a Lower House vote Tuesday, will help remedy the gap, which gives voters in less-populated rural areas greater balloting weight than those in crowded urban districts.

Monday's vote came about 18 months after the Supreme Court ruled that the vote-value imbalance in the 2009 Lower House election, which brought the DPJ to power, was "in a state of unconstitutionality."

The DPJ aims to show through the legislation that it will share the burden from future sales tax hikes by eliminating 40 of the 480 seats in the Lower House.

Despite its expected passage in the Lower House, the bills are expected to be vetoed by the opposition-controlled Upper House, leaving Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda in a bind before the Diet closes on Sept. 8.

The Liberal Democratic Party, the main opposition force, plans to submit a nonbinding censure motion against Noda in the upper chamber as early as Wednesday and refrain from any Diet deliberations for the rest of the session. The LDP has been pressing Noda to call an election.

"We'll do our best to pressure the prime minister to dissolve (the Lower House) as soon as possible. The LDP has to take power again in order for Japan to get out of this chaotic situation immediately," Toshimitsu Motegi, LDP policy chief, said on a TV program Monday afternoon.

The LDP earlier this month canceled plans to submit a no-confidence motion in the lower chamber, as well as the censure motion, after Noda promised he would dissolve the Lower House "soon," a vague overture that prompted the LDP and ally New Komeito to support the DPJ-led government's social security reform and tax hike bills.

Now that the tax hikes have been passed, the LDP and New Komeito plan to submit the censure motion. In early August, six small opposition parties, including Kokumin no Seikatsu ga Daiichi (People's Life First) headed by ex-DPJ leader Ichiro Ozawa, submitted a censure motion against the Noda Cabinet but no vote was taken.

The six parties also submitted a no-confidence motion in the Lower House, but it was voted down Aug. 9; the LDP and New Komeito abstained from the voting.

It will be a blow for Noda if the Upper House passes the LDP-New Komeito censure motion, even if it is nonbinding. The LDP is meanwhile struggling to gain support from the smaller parties behind the earlier initiatives because they claim their motions should have been prioritized.

The LDP and New Komeito need support from the small parties in order to pass their motion in the Upper House because the two alone do not hold a majority.

The electoral reform bills expected to clear the Lower House Tuesday will trim one single-seat constituency in five depopulated prefectures, reduce 40 proportional representation seats, and introduce a new system for allocating proportional representation seats in a way advantageous for small parties.

In the 2009 general election, it took 2.3 times more votes in the Chiba No. 4 constituency, the nation's most populous, to get one lawmaker elected than it took in the Kochi No. 3 constituency, the least populous.

By cutting five constituencies, the vote-value disparity will be slightly reduced to 2 from 2.3.



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The Japan Times

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