Malapportionment in Japan

A ruling by the Tokyo High Court may lead to reform of the electoral system for the Japanese House of Councilors, the second chamber of the Diet.

On the other hand, the Court can’t seem to make up its mind just how troublesome malapportionment is, or how much is too much. Manichi Daily News has some details.

2 thoughts on “Malapportionment in Japan

  1. It seems a bit odd for the court to reason that (a) the only possible remedy is to invalidate the entire election, and (b) because that would be too extreme, therefore it can do nothing but wag its finger at the Diet.

    If the constituencies for the House of Councillors are multi-seat (prefectures), why not simply issue an order re-apportioning the seats among the existing districts on the basis of population? If some districts are too small to warrant even one seat, the court could order these merged with an adjoining district. But in neither case would the court have to enter the “reapportionment thicket” by re-drawing the boundaries itself (or appointing a special master to do so).

    Several US States (eg, Alaska) lay down precisely this remedy for malapportionment in their constitutions.

  2. The Japanese SC House of Councillors logic is based upon the fact that the HOC is different than the HOR because it has fixed terms of 6 years with an election every three. Therefore because of this, every Prefecture must have at least 2 representatives. This alone builds in inevitable malapportionment. The SC in cases of both HOR and HOC believes the Diet can take into consideration local histories, size of districts, administrative units, etc in deciding on representation in districts thus also allowing some continuation of malapportionment. Also there is no Constitutional requirement of redistricting according to census; and the law only “suggests” such redistricting Finally, there is a contradiction in the Constitution betwen it making the Diet (Parliament) the “supreme organ of state power” but giving the SC explicitly the right of judicial review. The SC is aware of this contradiction and therefore hesitates to overrule the Diet too much because it can cause a constitutional crisis if the Diet does not go along. This is not to justify the SC’s decisions, but only to give further explanation of its judicial logic.

    The comparison with the US one state (Alaska) is not apt because the logic should be applied to the entire system and if it was then the whole principle of two Senators per state regardless of population would have to be abandoned which is the real cause of US Senatorial malapportionment.

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