Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Where You Stand Is Where You Sit?

In parsing out the internal dynamics of the domestic fight over the Trans-Pacific Partnership, it is perhaps worthwhile to look at how the sides in the battle line up against the nation's electoral map.

On the 26th of last month, the Ministry of General Affairs and Telecommunications released its revised preliminary population figures from the 2010 national census. As usual, the boys and girls of the news media immediate set to work with their spreadsheets, comparing populations within the nation's 300 electoral districts, looking for the greatest levels of disparity within the country.

The highest level of disparity found was 2.52, meaning that a person voting in the least populous district had 2.52 votes for a legislator as compared to a voter in the most populous district.

The winner in this contest? Kochi District #3, a rural outpost whose largest urban center is the city of Shimon (pop. 40,000 and shrinking). It is represented by Yamamoto Yuji of the Liberal Democratic Party. Liberal Democrats also represent Kochi District #1 and #2, for those who are keeping score.

Who gets stiffed the worst? It is Chiba District #4, comprised entirely of the core of the city of Funabashi (pop. 600,000 and growing). Chiba District #4 is represented by a member of the Democratic Party of Japan, namely (drumroll please) Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko.

There are 97 districts with populations greater than double Kochi's District #3, which are thus unconstitutional under the ruling handed down by the Supreme Court in March of this year. This is whopping jump in the number of unconstitutional districts, as there were only 48 such districts based on the 2005 census figures.

Now what about Yamada Masahiko, the leader of the fight against Japan's participation in the TPP within the DPJ? He represents Nagasaki District #3, the second smallest district in terms of population after Kochi District #3.

Need I say more.

Just for completeness' sake, in the House of Councillors the greatest disparity can be found in between Tottori and Kanagawa Prefectures. A vote in Tottori is worth 5.124 times a vote in Kanagawa. Tottori is primarily rural prefecture, with the city of Tottori (pop. 197,000) as its largest urban center. Kanagawa is almost entirely urban and suburban (pax the Hakone Area and the Tanzawa Range) with the city of Yokohama (3.7 million) as its largest urban center.

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