Friday, February 24, 2012

On Sunday, We Enter A State Of Transcendance and Transgression

On Saturday, February 25, the clock runs out on the Diet's efforts to come up with an electoral map for the next House of Representatives election. In March of last year, the Supreme Court declared the 2009 electoral map unconstitutional due to excessive disproportionality in between the populations of the smallest electoral districts and the largest. It suggested that the maps be redrawn so that the disproportionality of population between the smallest and largest districts does not exceed 1.99. Otherwise, the Supreme Court might for the first time in its history invalidate an election.

It is only on Sunday, however, that this blessed land enters of state of transcending the Constitution and transgressing against the Supreme Court's orders.

The Diet was given a reprieve by the judicial branch. It had up to one year after the announcement of the results of the 2010 population census to make the necessary adjustments to the electoral map to bring the disproportionality in districts below the 1.99 threshold.

It was one year ago on Saturday that the results of the 2010 decennial census were announced.

Due to the split control of the Houses of the Diet, both the ruling parties and the opposition parties had to come together to devise an electoral map that fell within the guidelines set by the Supreme Court's ruling.

This the parties have failed to do.

The parochial interests of the parties are in opposition. The ruling Democratic Party of Japan, in particular, has wanted to make good on its 2009 Manifesto promise to cut the number of proportional seats in the House of Representatives to 100 from its current 180. This guaranteed a showdown with the mini- and micro-parties, which remain viable solely because of the large number of proportional seats available. Since the major opposition party, the Liberal Democratic Party, desperately needs the votes of the mini-party New Komeito to elect its candidates in the district elections, it (the LDP) could not support the DPJ's proposed cuts.

The winners and losers are easy to distinguish. The ruling DPJ, which is languishing in the popularity polls, has no wish for an election at this time. For the DPJ, it is no elections, no problems. The New Komeito and the micro-parties are also winners, as the logjam has prevented the DPJ and the LDP from colluding in chopping down the number of proportional seats, which is in both DPJ's and the LDP's interests as the only two parties currently capable of running credible campaigns for the district seats.

One sure loser is the LDP. According to recent poll results, a head-to-head contest against the DPJ would lead to a reversal of the losses the LDP suffered in 2009. The LDP has a strong desire to force an election while this iron is still hot. The LDP is also desperate to contest andelection before the regionalist parties, the most important of which is Hashimoto Toru Ishin no kai, get themselves organized for running candidates for House of Representatives seats. Once the regionalist parties nominate candidates, the voters will have two large anti-DPJ parties on the ballot. Given the still strong public aversion to the LDP brand and a natural wish to not admit a mistake (for having dumped the LDP from power in 2009) the default anti-DPJ vote will like fall into the hands of the regionalists.

The major news outlets are enraged at the political parties for allowing the country to fall into a state of constitutional disgrace (Here is The Asahi Shimbun's editorial. Here is the Nihon Keizai Shimbun's -- better hurry up and copy this latter one).

News dudes and dudettes, the time to get enraged was last year, not days before the deadline.

Does the end of the grace period mean that the prime minister cannot dissolve the Diet, since a valid election cannot be held? Chief Cabinet Secretary Fujimura Osamu would want everyone to believe that the prime minister could still call an election (J) -- this in order to scare the living daylights out of the first-termers and Ozawa Ichiro supporters in the House of Representatives, as they would likely be utterly wiped out were an election to be called today.

Unfortunately, that the Chief Cabinet Secretary says something is so does not make it so. In this case, Fujimura is clearly wrong/being economical with the truth (take your pick).

Rest assured that Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko and current DPJ leadership will use this suspension of normal constitutional processes to drive the LDP leadership nuts -- and to hold out electoral reform carrots to the New Komeito in repeated efforts to entice the mini-party into betraying the LDP, its longtime ally.


Jan Moren said...

Or, you know, simply never come to an agreement. As long as there is no agreement there is no election. As long as there is no election, the DPJ leadership retains its seats at the levers of power. Wonder how many years they could stretch it if they really tried?

MTC said...

Herr Morén -

The holding of an election at the end of the four year term of the House of Representatives would take precedence, as it is set down in the Constitution.

Jan Moren said...

But if the election is ruled unconstitutional, who gets to run the caretaker government until a constitutional election can be held?

MTC said...

Herr Morén -

The Supreme Court will not violate the Constitution's requirement that elections be held every four years in order to uphold its ruling on the unconstitutionality of the districts.

Anonymous said...

The Supreme Court has invalidated elections in the past, just not Diet elections.