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LDP’s reform plan indicates cut in Lower House seats by 10 in 2020

  • 2016-02-10 15:00:00
  • , Asahi
  • Translation

(Asahi: February 10, 2016 – p. 4)


 The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) compiled on Feb. 10 a reform plan for the House of Representatives electoral system, which indicates that the allocation of seats to each prefecture would be reviewed based on the outcome of the 2020 national population census, and at the same time, the number of the seats would be reduced. At the direction of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has called for respecting the recommendation of an advisory panel to the Lower House speaker, the LDP revised its draft plan, which indicated the postponement of drastic reform of the electoral system. The party plans to cut the number of the seats by 10 in accordance with the advisory panel’s recommendation even though it will not indicate it in its reform plan. However, it is unclear whether it can gain the understanding of other political parties.


 On Feb. 9, LDP Secretary General Sadakazu Tanigaki, Hiroyuki Hosoda, who heads the LDP Electoral System Reform Headquarters, and LDP Election Strategy Committee Chairman Toshimitsu Motegi discussed the matter and put together the reform plan. The plan will be presented at a party convention on Feb. 10. A senior LDP member said, “We will iron out differences of opinion on this plan in the party.”


 The LDP’s reform plan indicates the implementation of the reform based on the results of the 2020 national population census while respecting the advisory panel’s proposal. Although it does not indicate the specific number of seat reduction and the review of the seat allocation, a senior party member said: “We will reduce the number of seats by 10 although we don’t write it in the plan.” The senior member emphasized that the LDP reviewed the draft plan since Abe, who has said he respects the panel’s proposal, had expressed disapproval of forgoing the drastic reform of the electoral system.


 However, since the LDP intends to postpone drastic reform to 2020 or later, even if the party members approve of this policy, it remains to be seen whether Komeito, the LDP’s coalition partner, and opposition will agree to it. There is a possibility that the LDP’s reform plan will be criticized by other political parties and the public.


 In his meeting with Tanigaki and Hosoda on Feb. 8, Abe told them: “It would be inconsistent with my replies at the Diet “in which I have said that I will respect the panel’s recommendation.”


 Taking this into consideration, Tanigaki said at a press conference on Feb. 9: “The Prime Minister has a strong belief that the panel’s proposal is a basis for the reform plan.” With an eye on “possible double elections for the two houses of the Diet in the summer, Abe took action to iron out opinions in the party because he wanted to eliminate obstacles to the dissolution of the Lower House.


 Besides Komeito, which forms a coalition with the LDP, opposition parties such as the Democratic Party of Japan and Japan Innovation Party (JIP), have taken the position of “respecting” the panel’s recommendation. The LDP’s original plan called for putting off the Lower House seat reduction, while reviewing the allocation of the seats in each prefecture. If the LDP insists on its original plan, consultations with other parties would be stalled and the submission of a reform bill to the Diet could be put at risk.


 The fact that the Supreme Court has ruled three times that “the vote-value disparity” in single-seat constituencies was in “a state of unconstitutionality” has been a burden for Abe. If Abe dissolves the Lower House when there is no prospect for realizing the reform plan, the validity of an election could be called into again in a lawsuit. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga emphasized at a press conference on Feb. 9 that “the decision by the Supreme Court should be taken seriously.”


 Abe has put together his view that even if the Lower House is dissolved without reforming the electoral system, “as a general principle the dissolution would not be negated.” Nevertheless, the dissolution of the Lower House without reforming the electoral system could draw criticism from the public. It was necessary for Abe to defuse objections in the LDP so that he can keep a free hand in dissolving the Lower House in accord with the political situation.

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