Kazuo Kitagawa on Election System Reform

March 29, 2013

In a series featured in the daily Komei Shimbun organ newspaper, senior New Komeito officials provide perspectives and positions on key policy issues. For this installment, Kazuo Kitagawa, 60, House of Representatives member who heads the party's effort to reform the existing electoral system for the Lower House, which the Japanese Supreme Court has found to be in violation of the "one citizen, one vote" constitutional mandate.

In his interview, Kitagawa addressed New Komeito's endorsement of a bill developed by the Liberal Democratic Party to reform the current Lower House electoral system. He first clarified that there were three major phases involved-an interim law that will reduce the number of total election districts by five while keeping the number of total house seats to the existing 480; reducing the number of house seats; and comprehensive reform of the house electoral system itself.

Kitagawa explained that the first phase-known in Japanese as the zero-zo, go-gen (or literally, "zero increase, five decrease") bill-became law after the LDP, Democratic Party of Japan and New Komeito enacted it at the end of 2012. The second step of paring the number of seats in the chamber is pending, but the coalition government in which New Komeito and LDP are presently partners, has endorsed a plan developed by the LDP and is working to pass the reform bill during the current Diet session.

The LDP plan calls for a reduction of 30 seats from the proportional representation system, and of the 150 seats that remain, 60 would be allocated to political parties that tally second or lower in ballots cast, meaning it should better reflect a broader, more diverse voter base and preference. After considerable internal discussion, New Komeito decided to approve of the LDP plan as a first step toward a larger, more comprehensive reform package of the chamber's electoral system.

Kitagawa, however, refuted critics who describe the LDP plan as a way to appease New Komeito, the smaller of the two parties. He said if the plan were applied to the Lower House election of 2012, the results would have been virtually identical for most parties. Under the plan, moreover, the party garnering the most votes assumes the burden of the reduction in total seats, yet nor would smaller parties automatically stand to benefit, either.

Kitagawa said that further steps will be taken to redress the malapportionment of voters and electoral constituencies, in which candidates are elected with fewer votes in rural districts than their counterparts running in urban districts, and called for nonpartisan cooperation in creating a more equitable system in the near future.