Thursday, March 14, 2013

The LDP's Latest Electoral Reform Chimera

Cognizant of some voters remembering that in November representatives of the Liberal Democratic Party promised then Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko that they would cooperate in cutting the number of seats in the House of Representatives if Noda would dissolve the Diet -- and cognizant that some kind of action looking like electoral reform is in order -- the LDP is now proposing to scramble the electoral system worse than ever.

In 2009, the Democratic Party of Japan promised to cut the number of House of Representatives proportional vote seats from 180 to 100. Nominally this proposal sought to reduce Diet expenditure. However this explanation was facetious: the House was to be left with a still extraordinary 400 seats. The actual goal of the proposal was the further cementing of a two-party system, this by starving the mini- and micro-parties of opportunities to win seats. As a such, the proposal never had a chance of being enacted after the losses of the 2010 House of Councillors election, as the DPJ by itself no longer had the votes necessary to prevail in both Houses of the Diet. Had the LDP, the other party desirous of a two-party system, been willing to accept a short term sacrifice for a long-term gain, the proposal could have been passed at any time. However, the LDP had no interest in cooperating with anything the DPJ offered.

So the matter sat, fermenting, until revived to provide camouflage for Noda's reprehensible surrender on every front.

However, with the courts beating upon the doors of Diet demanding reform (Link), the LDP has taken up the promise to reduce House of Representatives seat numbers.

Cutting the number of proportional House of Representative seats has nothing to do with the sort of reforms the courts are demanding. However, better to be seen doing something, no matter how perverse and pointless, than be hounded for doing nothing.

Hence, the latest cockamamie proposal. That, and the desire the LDP has to retain the New Komeito as an ally until the July House of Councillors elections are over.

Here is the LDP's proposed reform of the House of Representatives:

- Retention of the +0/-5 plan for rectifying the disproportionality of districts, a solution which the courts have derided as "nothing but the barest minimal reform meeting the mandatory standards." (Link – J)

- Cutting the number of proportional seats by 30

- Dividing the remaining 150 seats (180-30=150) into two, with 90 seats being apportioned by the current d’Hondt distribution from regional blocs and 60 seats apportioned among the parties other than the top finisher in the proportional bloc vote, with the proviso that greatest number of seats a party other than the top vote getter can win inside a bloc is equal to the number won by the top finisher (Got that?)

- Reducing the number of blocs from the current 11 to 8 (Link – J)

The DPJ has already come out against the LDP proposal, iterating the obvious point that "voters would find this reform hard to understand." (Link – J)

A reform which accomplishes none of the things the public and the courts have asked for, while adding at three new layers of complexity to the existing process is "hard to understand?" Really?

The great thing about having the LDP back in power with Abe Shinzo at the helm? One never needs to knit together tenuous webs of inference and intrigue in order to make plain the time-wasting self-interest at the heart of every ruling party initiative.

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