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Lawsuits filed to nullify election outcome over vote disparity

TOKYO — Two groups of lawyers are filing a series of lawsuits across the country Monday, seeking to nullify the results of the just-ended House of Representatives election because of vote weight disparities created by Japan’s rural-urban population imbalance.The vote gap in Sunday’s election would be less than twofold — a threshold that is widely seen to affect top court judgments on whether it violates the constitutionally-guaranteed equality under the law. But the group argues that any vote gap is unacceptable.


The Sapporo High Court and the Naha branch of the Fukuoka High Court are among a number of locations where the group filed the lawsuits. Vote gap in all of the 289 single-seat electoral districts will be challenged by the groups of lawyers.


According to government data released ahead of the election, the disparity in the value of a vote based on the number of eligible voters as of Oct. 9 was 1.98-fold between Tokyo’s No. 13 single-seat constituency with 474,326 voters and Tottori Prefecture’s No. 1 district with 239,104 voters.


The vote weight disparities in lower house single-seat electoral districts are expected to be kept below twofold for the time being as a revised election law took effect in July to address the problem.


Under the law, six prefectures lost one seat each, while electoral district lines in Tokyo and 18 prefectures were redrawn to reduce the disparity. The overall number of seats in the lower house was slashed to a postwar low of 465 seats.


The election on Sunday gave Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition ally Komeito party a sweeping victory. On its own, the LDP secured a stable majority, defined as at least 261 of the house’s 465 seats, with which it can control all the house’s legislative committees.


In November 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that disparities of up to 2.13 times in the weight of votes in the lower house election in December 2014 were “in a state of unconstitutionality.”


But it stopped short of saying the outcome violates the Constitution and should be invalidated, recognizing efforts that have been made by the Diet to address the disparity.

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