The ruling Liberal Democratic Party faces a monumental challenge with a planned redistribution of single-member constituencies for the powerful lower house to correct disparities in vote values.
As many incumbent lawmakers are expected to be affected by the reallocation of seats, a mitigation proposal has been put forward. But Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who is at the same time president of the LDP, will have to find a balance between allaying the concerns of lawmakers in the ruling party and the earlier vow to see the reforms through.
There was a chorus of dissenting views on constituency rezoning at a meeting of the LDP’s Electoral System Research Commission in December.
“The number of lawmakers in rural areas will decrease, while the number of lawmakers in urban areas will increase. We cannot accept this. It is against the national interest,” said one participant.
The reallocation of seats, which will be carried out according to the so-called Adams method and in accordance with the results of the 2020 census, provides for the elimination of one seat each in 10 prefectures, including Fukushima, Wakayama and Yamaguchi, and their distribution between Tokyo and four prefectures, including Kanagawa and Aichi.
The method, introduced as part of the 2016 Lower House electoral reform law, aims to better reflect the distribution of the population.
In the first group of 10 prefectures, outgoing PLD MPs are likely to compete for the fewest seats in Shiga, Okayama, Yamaguchi and Ehime, where the ruling party won in last October’s election.
In particular, attention is focused on Yamaguchi, where the number of seats will be reduced from four to three. Among the four PLD lawmakers elected in the western prefecture are heavyweights such as former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi.
“A considerable conflict will arise,” predicted a party source.
In urban areas which should be allocated more seats, not all chapters of the PLD are satisfied.
In Tokyo, which will win five more seats, the existing 25 single-member constituencies will be further divided, making it difficult for the party to select new candidates.
Amid the confusion surrounding the reallocation of the 10 seats, PLD lawmaker and lower house speaker Hiroyuki Hosoda presented a proposal to mitigate the impact of the reform, calling for the reduction of one seat each in the prefectures of Niigata, Ehime and Nagasaki and the redistribution of the three in Tokyo.
Reflecting the concerns of LDP members concerned about the planned rezoning, Hosoda criticized the use of the Adams Method at an LDP meeting last month.
“A mathematical formula is not the only answer,” he said.
The method, however, was adopted under legislation submitted by the PLD and its coalition partner, Komeito, on the recommendation of an advisory group to the then Speaker of the Lower House, Tadamori Oshima in 2016. The group was set up after talks in power with the opposition at headquarters. redistribution has found itself at an impasse.
As no other political party is currently siding with the LDP over its objections, the ruling party will likely be accused of partisan maneuvering if it decides to overturn the law-based reallocation of lower house seats.
Nobuyuki Baba, Opposition Co-Leader Nippon Ishin no Kai (Innovation Party of Japan), condemned Hosoda’s comments as being “motivated by narrow interests, personal greed and the party’s self-interest” .
The lower house committee on constituency boundaries is expected to recommend a new electoral map in Kishida by June.
At a press conference in December, Kishida underscored his government’s intention to submit a bill to parliament to amend the Law on Public Service Elections to reflect the forthcoming recommendation.
“From the government’s point of view, we must provide the necessary response, firmly applying the current law,” he said.
An experienced PLD lawmaker has suggested to like-minded colleagues to put pressure on Kishida, saying the issue of the overhaul of the electoral map will reach a critical point during the regular session of parliament due to start this month.
The reallocation of the 10 seats is likely to be an indicator of the balance of power between Kishida and LDP lawmakers in the coming months.
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