Thursday, February 25, 2010

Last Summer's Elections Are Still Unconstitutional

Now please go away and stop bothering us!

That, in a nutshell, was the decision handed down by the Tokyo High Court yesterday. The court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in a complaint doubting the constitutionality of nine Kanagawa Prefecture electoral districts. However, while the court agreed with the plaintiffs that the existence of an electoral map where the votes of those living in the nation's smallest population district are worth more than twice as much as those living in the nation's largest districts cannot be meshed in any rational way with the Constitution's provisions on the equality of citizens, it did not declare void the August 2009 House of Representatives election based upon said districts.

Taking rationality as the fulcrum point on which to balance its reasoning, the High Court ruled that even though the electoral districts were unconstitutional, nobody did anything to rectify the districts in a rational amount time prior to the election, so the electoral results cannot be found unconstitutional.

To find out how this assertion could be true is tough. One has to wade through a swamp of parenthetical phrases and climb over a series of parallel dependant clauses until one finally hits a wall at "the Diet's not having acted upon this same revision cannot be said to be unconstitutional as a discretionary deviation per se."

Or, as the best free online translation software application I know translates the explanation of the court (as listed in this article):
However, though the expansion of twice or more the difference was admitted about a present electoral system by the frame method according to one person after 94 years, Run counter to the Constitution..opinion..divide..supreme court..judgment..division..regulations..constitutional violation..admit..opinion..command a majority..electoral system..revision..correspond..time..require.., considering..Diet..this case..elect..this counter to the

The Tokyo High Court ruling represents the third ruling of the recent past finding the current small-district electoral map to be unconstitutional. It comes on the heels of similar verdicts in Osaka in December last year and Hiroshima in January. A major revision of the nation's electoral map is already planned in response to the results of the census (the next census' completion date is October 1 this year). The judicial system's ratcheting up of the pressure for the reduction of the level of inequality in House of Representatives electoral districts will only magnify the already strong desire of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan to grant greater representation to the DPJ's core supporters in the urban and suburban areas.

So the DPJ's current distressing small-scale replication of the LDP's broad strategy of securing votes in the rural areas through public works contracts may end up being the last roar of the Tanakaist beast prior to its final, well-deserved demise. For should the DPJ secure a working majority in the House of Councillors this summer, either solo or in coalition, and with the results of October's census in hand, it should be able to shepherd an equitable reapportionment of House of Representatives electoral districts, bringing to an end the post-1946 tyranny of the rural least as far as the House of Representatives, the more potent of the two houses of the Diet, is concerned.

And should the DPJ-dominated Diet fail to follow through on overseeing the promulgation of a more equitable electoral map, despite all the seeming political incentives for the party to do so, it looks as though the courts are laying down a legal framework to impose one of their own.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Maybe you should check what happened in Zurich (Switzerland) when they were confronted with a similar situation. Eventually, they introduced Friedrich Pukelsheim's biproportional system ('Double Pukelsheim').
More information is only available in German (