Table Speech

“Current Democracy System in Japan ーUniqueness Borne of Systemization of 1 Vote Differential”

January 30, 2008

Mr. Hiroshi Fukuda,
Former Justice of the Supreme Court,
Attorney-at-law, Counsel, Nishimura & Asahi

 It is my feeling that representative democracy is not functioning well in the present day of Japan. The most significant of the reasons lies in the inequality of the voting right represented by “1 vote differential”.

 In the Upper House election last July, the candidate in Kochi was elected by the smallest number of votes. The number of votes was just over 160,000 votes. In an electoral district in Tokyo, there were 3 candidates who lost the race having more votes than that. One of the candidates had gained 660,000 votes.

 The reason for the inequality of election assessment is, first of all, the division of electoral district in the Upper House election was based on the administrative division of prefectures. This is not written in the Constitution. The difference in the number of eligible voters in Tottori Prefecture and Miyagi Prefecture is 2.62 times. If the prefectures are to be the basis for dividing electoral district, a gap will inevitably arise.

 As a result, the inequality of voting rights perpetuated and spread and in the Lower House election it is twice and in the Upper House election it is 5 times and this has become permanent.

 The second feature is deciding the differential by comparing 2 electoral districts. It is compared in the form of “relative equality”. This is a philosophy underlying the phrasing “maximum differential multiple” which states that if it is equal to a certain degree it needs not be absolute.

 Further, when the small electoral district system was introduced, a strange system called “1 prefecture 1 separate limit system” was created and the differential multiple now never falls below two times.

 The present system is a system in which, over 10 million voters or roughly 20% of Japan total, will not have their vote counted even if they go to the polls.

 Even in the Lower or the Upper House, even if it is fixed as a system based on inequality, no legislation by members will be put forth if it goes against their interests.

 Essentially, there should be a method to check these. There is a view that the courts should function as a check but the Supreme Court based on Article 47 of the Constitution, “Items relating to the election of members of both Houses shall be provided for by law” will not intervene based on it deeming that whether it is a legislation by members or government-proposed legislation, it is attributable to the wide discretion of the Diet.

 In terms of policy, what is now happening? These are being allocated more favorably to those areas that are deemed to be depopulated in the public works. In depopulated regions where the value of a vote is high, there are many elderly people. I am skeptically concerned to grant rights that exceed the sense of equality between the elderly generation, which would pose a significant impediment to creating a society in which the younger generation can have a dream of a future.

 Another system feature is the rapid increase in the second and third generation representatives. This is making politics a family business. There has been a sudden rush of second and third generation representatives assuming the prime ministership. I think that this is a reflection of setting administrative divisions as the basis of electoral district.

 There is a history of a country where due to intentionally changing the value of a vote unfairly unexpected consequences took place. The case in point is the United States of America.

 When the United States became independent, 13 states formed a republic. When electing the president, the southern states opposed the system that a number of electoral voters were to be allocated to each state according to the population (number of white males). The reason for the opposition was that the population in the south was small. A compromise proposal was that if a person owned 5 slaves, he would be added to the population as having 3 votes. Of course, this did not mean giving slaves voting rights. The presidential election was held under a system where 3/5 of the number of slaves was added to the electors.

 The result was that, subsequently over several decades, all of the presidents that were elected originated from the south. Slavery was perpetuated and discriminatory views toward blacks intensified.

 Ultimately what changed was by Justice Earl Warren of the Federal Supreme Court in the 1950’s – 1960’s having made several groundbreaking decisions to establish equality of voting rights and civil rights protection law, and finally improvements were made.

 It has been proved historically that if a system lacks equality of voting rights is first established, its effects linger for over 100 years.