Panel calls for reducing vote-value gap to 1.999 to 1

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The Yomiuri Shimbun A government advisory panel has submitted to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe an electoral reform plan that calls for narrowing the maximum vote-value disparity to 1.999 to 1 based on population projections for 2020.

Chaired by Mitsuo Kobayakawa, a visiting professor at Seikei University, the Council on the House of Representatives Electoral District decided on Wednesday on the plan to rezone the lower house’s single-seat constituencies based on the 2015 Population Census.

The plan calls for a review of 97 electoral districts in 19 prefectures — the largest reform of its kind — and the maximum vote-value gap between the most and least populous districts to be reduced to 1.999 to 1 from the current 2.552 to 1, based on population estimates for 2020.

The government plans to submit legislation revising the Public Offices Election Law, with the panel’s proposal incorporated, to the current Diet session.

This is the third time rezoning of the lower house’s single-seat constituencies has been proposed since an electoral system combining single-seat districts and proportional representation blocs was introduced in 1994. Previous proposals were made in 2001 and 2013.

The council worked out the reform plan in line with the law related to reform of the lower house election system, which was enacted in May last year. The plan calls for eliminating one seat in Aomori, Iwate, Mie, Nara, Kumamoto and Kagoshima. It also seeks for the maximum vote-value disparity to be below 2 to 1 based on both the 2015 census and 2020 population projections.

Specifically, two electoral districts in Tottori Prefecture, the nation’s least populous prefecture, have served as a yardstick for reform: Tottori Constituency No. 2, which was the least populous electoral district in the 2015 census; and Tottori Constituency No. 1, which would be the least populous electoral district based on the 2020 projections.

The council seeks to rezone 13 prefectures with a vote-value gap ratio of more than 2 to 1 compared to the two Tottori constituencies or with a smaller population. The reform plan is distinctive for seeking a vote-value disparity below 2 to 1 through 2020 with the use of population estimates.

If this rezoning is carried out, the maximum disparity would be reduced to 1.956 to 1 from the current 2.176 to 1, based on the 2015 population.

Under the plan, a record 105 municipalities will be split into more than one electoral district, up from the current 88. Particularly in Tokyo, where vote-value disparities have exceeded 2 to 1 in 13 of 25 electoral districts, the districts would be rezoned significantly, creating 17 such municipalities, up from five.

In addition to reducing one single-seat constituency in the six prefectures, the government is expected to include in the legislation a plan to scrap one seat in each of the four proportional representation regional blocs — Tohoku, Kita-Kanto, Kinki and Kyushu. Under the plan, seats in the lower house will be cut to 465 (289 in single-seat constituencies and 176 in proportional representation blocs), down from the current 475 and marking the fewest seats since after the end of World War II.

Abe received the proposal from Kobayakawa at the Prime Minister’s Office on Wednesday, and indicated his willingness to pass the legislation into law during the current Diet session.

“I’ll report it to the Diet immediately and swiftly take legislative steps based on the proposal,” he said.

If the legislation is passed into law during the ongoing Diet session, a lower house election will be possible under newly rezoned districts following a monthlong period of informing the public of the reform. Speech

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