Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Further Cracks in the Levee

In a decision taking one more chip out of the edifice of power that thwarted the popular will, inflated the importance of rural votes and helped perpetuate rule by the Liberal Democratic Party, Hiroshima High Court judge Hirota Satoshi has found that differences in the size of voting age populations inside House of Representives districts leading to dilutions of voting strengths greater than two-to-one are unconstitutional. While Hirota ruled against the plaintiff, a Hiroshima Prefecture man whose own voting district in the August 2009 elections has a voting age population 1.47 times larger than the least populated district the nation (Kochi District #3) he did state a seemingly obvious but heretofore ignored principle:
"It is difficult to think that without any (specific) constitutional sanction, a single voter living in a least populated district gets two votes or, conversely, that two voters in a high population district get only one vote."
Slowly, slowly the courts have been chipping away at the vast disparities that exist in voting strengths, starting with the first decision in December 1972 that found unconstitutional a difference of greater than 4.99 in voting strengths. The informal standard since 1990 has been anything greater than 2.99 is unconstitutional, challenges of a 2.0 standard having failed in 1996, 2000 and 2005.

For those who believe in the wisdom of the people, particularly a highly educated people with a general neutrality towards religious or other ideologies, the court's timidity heretofore in giving the people their constitutionally guaranteed equal voice in how they are governed has been an infuriating and demoralizing spectacle. With this ruling, there is hope, albeit a late one that Japan's stumbling responses to the decay of the last 20 years will come to an end.


Soma said...

This is not the first ruling of this kind, and while it may still go to the Supreme Court, I wonder what it would take to compel the ruling party to consider electoral reform, especially when it is in their favour (and seemingly constitutionally mandated! The best kind of reform!)? Such a ruling would be taken very seriously in most other countries one would think.

PaxAmericana said...

I'm hoping that the Supreme Court can find it unconstitutional to have more than three times as many corporations based in Tokyo as in rural areas per capita. Corporations have far more power than individuals, so it is their "voting" power that matters.

MTC said...

PaxAmericana -

An excellent point, worth a blog post or more. The concentration of corporate headquarters in the Tokyo Metropolitan District is aberrant, deeply damaging to the mid- and long-term prospects of the non-core region prefectures.