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Abe changes tack, opts for cutting Lower House seats sooner

  • 2016-02-19 15:00:00
  • , Nikkei
  • Translation

(Nikkei: February 19, 2016 – p. 4)


 At a meeting on Feb. 18 with Hiroyuki Hosoda, chair of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) headquarters for election system reform issues, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ordered that the party’s plan for reducing House of Representatives seats be advanced. The LDP has so far planned to come up with a seat reduction proposal after the national census in 2020, but this is being criticized by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) and other parties for putting off the reduction. Even the LDP’s coalition partner Komeito is calling for seat reduction at an early date. Abe has now judged that the LDP plan will not be able to win the people’s support.


 Abe told Hosoda at the meeting that seat reduction should take place as soon as possible and that the plan should be as transparent as possible. He is expected to announce at the Lower House Budget Committee on Feb. 19 that seat reduction will be implemented sooner than the previously planned “after 2020.”


 The national census that currently serves as the basis for Lower House seat allocation took place in 2010. A simplified version of the census was also conducted in 2015 and preliminary results are due to be released on Feb. 26. While a simplified census also provides basic demographic information that can be used for allocating Diet seats, zoning of single-seat electoral districts for the Lower House has so far been based on the national census held every 10 years for the sake of system stability.


 An advisory panel to the Lower House speaker has come up with a recommendation to add one seat each for 7 prefectures and cut one seat each for 13 prefectures for the single-seat districts, and add one seat to one proportional representation bloc and reduce one seat each for five other blocs without specifying a timeframe. However, since the 2015 census results will be released soon, a senior LDP admitted that “it is now unrealistic to allocate seats based on the 2010 national census,” indicating the possibility of rezoning based on the 2015 census.


 The DPJ and the Japan Innovation Party have indicated acceptance of the “plus 7, minus 13” plan. If the LDP comes up with a plan based on new figures from the 2015 census, this will more closely reflect the demographics than the panel’s proposal. Another issue is whether the “Adams’ method” of apportionment, which more closely reflects population distribution, will be adopted.


 All parties are supposed to report their position on the panel’s recommendation to the Lower House speaker on Feb. 22. While the LDP will rush to produce a new proposal in light of the Prime Minister’s order, coordination may take time due to persistent resistance in the party. (Slightly abridged)

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