In a landmark ruling Monday, a Hiroshima court ruled the results of the December lower-house election invalid in two districts due to the disproportionate weighting of votes in those districts. It was the first time a Japanese court ruled election results invalid on such grounds. It is seen as a victory for constitutional rights activists, who have long argued disparities in the weighting of votes in different districts violates the constitution. The ruling ups the ante on lawmakers to fix the system. A string of past court rulings has found that the current electoral system doesn’t uphold the principle of “one person, one vote,” as prescribed in the constitution. Still, the rulings acknowledged the validity of the results — until now. Yet neither of the winning candidates in the two districts — including Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida — will need to immediately worry about their jobs.
According to local media reports, the ruling stipulates that the nullification of the election results takes effect only from Nov. 26. That gives Hiroshima’s board of elections time to appeal to the Supreme Court. The Internal Affairs Ministry says even if the Supreme Court upholds the ruling, it won’t necessarily mean new polls.
It is just the latest chapter in the torturous, drawn-out process to rectify disparities in the weighting of votes by district. The system generally gives voters in sparsely populated rural districts far more weight than those in densely populated, urban ones.
In the December election, for instance, it took the most populous district 2.43 times as many votes to elect its lower-house representative as it did in the least populous one.
Following the Dec. 16 lower-house election that brought Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party to power, civil law advocates filed 16 cases in 14 district courts challenging the results.