My electoral district still has two representatives to the Lower House after the Oct. 31 election, even though only one candidate won under the single-seat system.
However, the candidate who lost didn’t get eliminated altogether, either, because this individual had also run in a proportional representation block, high up on the party’s list of candidates.
Some people may welcome having their district represented by lawmakers from both the ruling and opposition parties. But I’m not entirely comfortable with the outcome of this election system.
Going through the names of the winners from proportional representation blocks, I saw that many had lost in their single-seat districts. They included some high-profile politicos, such as one who was under suspicion of corruption and another whose gaffe had scandalized the public.
Simply put, the proportional representation system has become a lifeboat for candidates of dubious credibility. Those who were picked by parties to run exclusively in proportional representation blocks are quite few and far between.
I have begun to think that this has something to do with the scarcity of female lawmakers in Japan.
I say this because many of the gender quota systems practiced abroad, where women must make up a certain portion of candidates, are applied to the proportional representation system. The quota can take the form of requiring the same number of female and male candidates, with their names listed alternately by gender.
In Taiwan, where the system has worked successfully, its election system that combines single-seat constituencies and proportional representation blocks is no different from Japan’s. But the one big difference is that double candidacy is not allowed.
“Without the quota system, I would never have been elected a lawmaker,” a female lawyer was quoted recently by The Asahi Shimbun as saying.
She has been active for years advocating for separate surnames for married couples.
And Taiwan’s proportional representation blocks have reportedly become launching pads for experts in various fields seeking public office.
Japan does have a law demanding an equal number of male and female candidates, but it is very clearly ignored.
One often-heard excuse is that in single-seat constituencies, incumbents must be given priority treatment.
If that is the case, why not keep the proportional representation blocks exclusively for candidates who aren’t running anywhere else, and require women to make up half of the candidates?
This could certainly start with next year’s Upper House election. There should be no problem at all, since it will be a straightforward, “no double-candidacy” election.
–The Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 9
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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.