The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 29, 2012)
Failure to address election system reform deplorable
The current ordinary Diet session closes in less than two weeks and many legislative issues are still pending. Both the ruling and opposition camps must work tirelessly to reach accords on them until the last minute.
The biggest concern is that the Diet has yet to realize the House of Representatives’ electoral system reform, although the Supreme Court has ruled the current disparity in the weight of votes between the most- and least- represented constituencies is “in a state of unconstitutionality.”
The Democratic Party of Japan voted on a DPJ-sponsored election system reform bill in a special lower house committee on Monday in the absence of opposition parties. The DPJ is poised to pass the bill in a plenary session of the lower house on Tuesday.
The opposition bloc, as a matter of course, has opposed the DPJ’s actions.
Given that the DPJ will be unable to obtain approval from the opposition that controls the House of Councillors, it is certain the bill will be scrapped when it fails in the upper house. This will leave the state of unconstitutionality unresolved.
DPJ out to put off election
Having the bill hastily approved by the committee is presumably motivated by a desire to shift the blame for failing to achieve electoral reform to the opposition.
DPJ Acting Secretary General Shinji Tarutoko has lambasted the opposition parties for “taking a stand even against rectifying the gap in the weight of votes.”
The DPJ, however, has persistently spurned the idea of cutting five single-seat electoral districts before other election system issues. This is the only option the DPJ and the major opposition parties, the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito, agreed to on the election reform issue. The DPJ should be held responsible for stalling this reform.
In light of the irresponsibility of the DPJ, the party is not qualified to criticize the opposition. The DPJ has employed the tactic of delaying the legislation in a bid to postpone the lower house dissolution and a general election.
The DPJ-sponsored bill entails not only a five single-seat constituency cut, but also the reduction of 40 proportional representation seats. It also includes the partial adoption of a seat allocation formula in proportional representation contests favorable to small and midsize parties, which Komeito has demanded.
Electoral system reform based on such a hodgepodge of arguments backed by different parties is unintelligible to the public. Introduction of a seat allocation formula designed to give disproportionately preferential treatment to small and midsize parties may be a constitutional violation, according to some analysts.
Opposition equally at fault
The LDP is set to submit a censure motion in the upper house against Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda as early as Wednesday.
The censure motion will likely pass the upper house by an opposition majority. If the opposition boycotts all Diet deliberations after that, the current session could end with many issues unaddressed.
Citing reasons to censure the prime minister, LDP President Sadakazu Tanigaki claims Noda’s ability to tackle the problems facing the country “has reached its limit.”
However, the opposition is just as responsible for the turmoil in the nation’s politics.
A case in point is a government plan for a bill to issue deficit-covering government bonds.
Should the bill fail to pass, it would become impossible, at some point, to implement the state budget. The opposition parties have continued to assert they will not cooperate unless the DPJ commits to an exact date for the dissolution of the lower house.
Deputy Prime Minister Katsuya Okada has said, “There is a possibility of a power change [in the next general election] and the opposition should stop these maneuvers.”
While Okada is right, the DPJ should remember that, when it sat in opposition, it also used budget-related bills, including one to issue deficit-covering bonds, as bargaining chips.
If the censure motion is passed by the LDP, Komeito and other opposition parties, the relationship of trust between the DPJ and the two major opposition parties would almost certainly collapse.
A censure motion, which has no binding power, must never be exploited in a power struggle.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 28, 2012)