Elections in Japan

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The Japanese political process has three types of elections.

Contents

Elections are supervised by Election Administration Commissions at each administrative level under the general direction of the Central Election Management Council, an extraordinary organ attached to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC). The minimum voting age in Japan's non-compulsory electoral system was reduced from twenty to eighteen years in June 2016. [3] [4] Voters must satisfy a three-month residency requirement before being allowed to cast a ballot. [5]

For those seeking offices, there are two sets of age requirements: twenty-five years of age for admission to the House of Representatives and most local offices, and thirty years of age for admission to the House of Councillors and the prefectural governorship. [6] Each deposit for candidacy for national election is 3 million yen (about 27 thousand dollars) for a single-seat constituency and 6 million yen (about 54 thousand dollars) for proportional representation.

National elections

Japan's postwar national legislature, the National Diet (国会, Kokkai), has two directly elected chambers, elected on independent electoral cycles:

General elections of members of the House of Representatives (衆議院議員総選挙, Shūgi-in giin sō-senkyo) are usually held before the end of a four-year term as the chamber may be dissolved by the cabinet via the Emperor. Most prime ministers use that option. The only exception in post-war history was the "Lockheed Election" of 1976 in which the Liberal Democratic Party lost its seat majority for the first time.

The single-seat constituencies are decided by plurality, and the proportional seats are handed out in each "block" constituency to party lists proportionally (by the D'Hondt method) to their share of the vote. [7] Each voter votes twice, once for a candidate in the local constituency, and once for a party in the regional "block" constituency. In a parallel system, there is no link between votes in one tier and seat numbers in the other; but so-called dual candidacies (重複立候補, chōfuku rikkōho) of one candidate in both tiers simultaneously are allowed. If such dual candidates lose in the majoritarian tier, they still have a chance to be elected in the proportional block. Parties may also place dual district and block candidates on the same list rank; in that case, the Sekihairitsu (惜敗率, ratio of margin of defeat) system determines the order of candidates.

Regular/Ordinary elections of members of the House of Councillors (参議院議員通常選挙, Sangi-in giin tsūjō-senkyo) are usually held once every three years. In staggered elections, half of the House of Councillors comes up for election every three years in elections. The term is fixed, the House of Councillors cannot be dissolved. This, too, is a parallel electoral system. Dual candidacies are not allowed. As in House of Representatives elections, voters have two votes: In the majoritarian election, the vote has to be for a candidate, but in the proportional election, the vote may be for either a party list or a single candidate; in the latter case, the vote counts as both a vote for the party list (to determine proportional seat distribution), and as a preference vote within that list (to determine the order or proportional candidates within that list). The district magnitudes in the majoritarian tier vary between one and six, dependent on, but not fully proportional to the population of each prefecture. In single-member constituencies, SNTV becomes equivalent to first-past-the-post, whereas seats are usually split between different parties/alliances in multi-member constituencies (and in the proportional constituency by definition). Therefore, the single-member constituencies of the House of Councillors ( 参議院一人区 , Sangiin ichinin-ku) are more likely to swing the election result and often receive more media and campaign attention. The proportional election to the House of Councillors allows the voters to cast a preference vote for a single candidate on a party list. The preference votes strictly determined the ranking of candidates on party lists before 2019. Since the 2019 election, parties are allowed to prioritize individual candidates on their proportional list over voter preferences in a "special frame" (特定枠, tokutei-waku). In the 2019 election, almost all parties continued to use completely open lists; exceptions were the LDP which used the "special frame" to give secure list spots to two LDP prefectural federations affected by the introduction of combined constituencies in 2016, Reiwa Shinsengumi which used it to give secure list spots to two candidates with severe disabilities, and the minor "Labourers' Party for the liberation of labour". [9] [10]

Voting in Higashiosaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan, 2014. Election in Japan2014 (2).JPG
Voting in Higashiōsaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan, 2014.

The electoral cycles of the two chambers of the Diet are usually not synchronized. Even when the current constitution took effect in 1947, the first House of Councillors election was held several days apart from the 23rd House of Representatives election. Only in 1980 and 1986, general and regular election coincided on the same day because the House of Representatives was dissolved in time for the election to be scheduled together with the House of Councillors election in early summer.

Vacant district seats in both Houses are generally filled in by-elections (補欠選挙, hoketsu senkyo). Nowadays, these are usually scheduled in April and October as necessary. Vacant proportional seats in both Houses and district seats in the House of Councillors that fall vacant within three months of a regular election are filled by kuriage-tōsen (繰り上げ当選, roughly "being elected as runner-up"): the highest ranking candidate on a proportional list or in the electoral district who was not elected and is not disqualified takes the seat. Disqualifications may, for example, happen if a candidate for the House of Councillors runs for the House of Representatives or vice versa, or after a violation of campaign laws.

For many years, Japan was a one party dominant state until 1993 with the Liberal Democratic Party (自由民主党, Jiyū-Minshu-tō) as the ruling party. It won a majority of the popular vote in House of Representatives general elections until the 1960s. It lost the majority of seats in 1976 and 1979, but continued to rule without coalition partners with the support of independent Representatives. After the 1983 election when it again lost the majority, it entered a coalition for the first time – with the New Liberal Club (新自由クラブ, Shin-Jiyū-kurabu). In 1986, the coalition ended as the LDP won a large majority of seats and even came close to a majority of votes. The party suffered its first clear electoral defeat in the 1989 House of Councillors regular election when it lost the upper house majority and had to face for the first time a divided Diet (ねじれ国会, Nejire Kokkai, lit. "twisted Diet") where passing legislation depends on cooperation with the opposition. The LDP was out of government for the first time in 1993 after Ichirō Ozawa and his faction had left the party and the opposition parties united in an anti-LDP coalition, but then soon returned to the majority in 1994 by entering a coalition with its traditional main opponent, the Japan Socialist Party (日本社会党, Nihon-Shakai-tō). The 2009 House of Representatives elections handed the first non-LDP victory to the Democratic Party of Japan (民主党, Minshu-tō).

According to a survey by Yomiuri Shimbun in April 2010, almost half of Japanese voters do not support any political parties due to political inefficiency. [11]

Election of the Prime Minister

Between 1885 and 1947 in the Empire of Japan, the prime minister was not elected by legisture, but responsible to, chosen and appointed by the Emperor. In practice, the Genrō (元老) usually nominated a candidate for appointment. The Imperial Diet (帝国議会, Teikoku-gikai) and its elected lower house, the House of Representatives, which were set up in 1890 according to the Imperial Constitution, had no constitutionally guaranteed role in the formation of cabinets. [12] [ better source needed ]

Since 1947, the Prime Minister has been chosen in the "designation election of the prime minister " (内閣総理大臣指名選挙, Naikaku sōridaijin shimei senkyo) (ja) in the National Diet. It is held after a cabinet has submitted its resignation – the outgoing cabinet remains as caretaker cabinet until the Imperial inauguration ceremony of a new prime minister –; a cabinet must resign en masse under the constitution (Articles 69 and 70) 1. always on convocation of the first Diet after a general election of the House of Representatives, 2. if the post of prime minister has fallen vacant – that includes cases when the prime minister is permanently incapacitated, e.g. by illness, kidnapping or defection –, or 3. if a no-confidence vote in the House of Representatives is not answered by the dissolution of the chamber. Though both Houses of the Diet vote in two-round elections to select a prime minister, the House of Representatives has the decisive vote: If the two Houses vote for different candidates (as they did in 1948, 1989, 1998, 2007 and 2008), a procedure in the joint committee of both houses (両院協議会, Ryōin Kyōgikai) may reach a consensus; but eventually the candidate of the House of Representatives becomes that of the whole Diet and thereby prime minister-designate. The designated prime minister must still be ceremonially appointed by the Emperor in the Imperial Investiture (親任式, Shinnin-shiki) to enter office; but unlike some heads of state, the Emperor has no reserve power to appoint anyone other than the person elected by the Diet.

In 2001, LDP president and Prime Minister Junichirō Koizumi instituted an advisory council to investigate the possibility of introducing direct popular election of the prime minister in a constitutional revision. [13]

Upcoming national elections

2022 House of Councillors by-election

On April 24, a by-election will be held in Ishikawa to the 2019–25 class of the House of Councillors. The seat had been vacated in December 2021 by Shūji Yamada (LDP) for his (unsuccessful) candidacy in the gubernatorial election in March. There are also two vacant House of Councillors seats in Kanagawa (one from each class), but they will be filled in a single, combined regular and by-election in Summer.

2022 House of Councillors regular election

The 2022 electoral map sees the LDP looking to defend or expand on the slightly stronger class of its House of Councillors caucus with 57 (as of February 2022) of its 110 seats up, including defected ex-Democrats in Miyagi and Fukushima. The centre-left opposition will seek to defend single-member seats in "purple" prefectures like Nagano or Yamanashi while trying to make inroads into "red" territory as it had done to some degree with the joint centre-left strategy in the 2019 election when it recovered somewhat from the 2013 wipe-out in single-member districts and gained some seats even in conservative-leaning prefectures (Akita, Yamagata, Ehime). However, depending on the outcome of the April by-election and other party changes until then, the ruling parties would have to lose at least 14 seats overall to lose their majority, even more to give unambiguous control to the opposition.

Latest results

2021 House of Representatives general election

The LDP defended its majority, and the LDP-Kōmeitō coalition government continues under prime minister Fumio Kishida; but the coalition no longer holds a two-thirds majority as it had previously since 2012, i.e. it now needs to retain its majority in the House of Councillors in order to control a legislative majority of its own in parliament. The main opposition CDP picked up some majoritarian seats in a joint centre-left nomination strategy, but lost substantially in the proportional tier where it had held almost the same number of seats as the LDP before the election due to the 2020 party realignments. The centre-right opposition Ishin no Kai surged, winning 15 of 19 FPTP seats in Osaka and gaining seats in ten of eleven proportional districts countrywide.

2021 House of Councillors by-elections

One week before the 2021 House of Representatives general election, by-elections to the House of Councillors were held in Yamaguchi and Shizuoka. Former proportional district member Tsuneo Kitamura (LDP – Kōmeitō) easily held conservative stronghold Yamaguchi for the ruling coalition against candidates from JCP and [anti-]NHK party, former prefectural assembly member Shinnosuke Yamazaki (independent – CDP, DPFP) narrowly won Shizuoka for the centre-left opposition against candidates from LDP and JCP. [14] [15]

2021 by- & repeat elections to both houses

The centre-left opposition won all three April 2021 elections to the Diet: [16]

2020 House of Representatives by-election

The 26 April by-election in Shizuoka's 4th district was won by former prefectural assemblyman Yōichi Fukazawa (LDP – Kōmeitō). With 61% of the vote, he easily beat opposition candidate Ken Tanaka (I – CDP, DPFP, JCP, SDP; 35%), a former prefectural assembly member from Tokyo, and two other candidates to fill the seat vacated by Yoshio Mochizuki's death in December. [20]

2019 House of Councillors by-election

The 27 October by-election in Saitama to fill the vacancy created by Motohiro Ōno's (DPFP) resignation was won by previous governor and former DPJ House of Representatives member Kiyoshi Ueda who had been an independent since his move from national to prefectural politics in 2003. The only other candidate was Takashi Tachibana for the anti-NHK party. [21] [22]

2019 House of Councillors regular election

Results [23] summary:

List of House of Representatives general elections

19th century

ElectionDateElected prime minister
(during term)
TurnoutSeatsDate of
dissolution (D) /
expiration of term (E)
Registered
voters
Majority partySeats ShareMonarch
(Reign)
Imperial Diet (1890-1947); upper house: House of Peers Emperor
Meiji

Flag of the Japanese Emperor.svg
(1867–1912)
1890 1 July 1890 Yamagata Aritomo 93.91%300450,872 Constitutional Liberal 13043.33%
(Matsukata Masayoshi)
1892 15 February 1892 Matsukata Masayoshi 91.59%(D) 25 December 1891434,5949431.33%
(Itō Hirobumi)
Mar. 1894 1 March 1894 Itō Hirobumi 88.76%(D) 30 December 1893440,11312040.00%
Sep. 1894 1 September 1894 Itō Hirobumi 84.84%(D) 2 June 1894460,48310735.66%
(Matsukata Masayoshi)
(Itō Hirobumi)
Mar. 1898 15 March 1898 Itō Hirobumi 87.50%(D) 25 December 1897452,63710535.00%
(Ōkuma Shigenobu)
Aug. 1898 10 August 1898 Ōkuma Shigenobu 79.91%(D) 10 June 1898502,292 Kensei Hontō 12441.33%
(Yamagata Aritomo)
(Itō Hirobumi)
(Katsura Tarō)
ElectionDateElected prime minister
(during term)
TurnoutSeatsDate of dissolution (D) /
expiration of term (E)
Registered
voters
Majority partySeats ShareMonarch
(Reign)

20th century

ElectionDateElected prime minister
(during term)
TurnoutSeatsDate of
dissolution (D) /
expiration of term (E)
Registered
voters
Majority partySeats ShareMonarch
(Reign)
1902 10 August 1902 Katsura Tarō 88.39%376(E) 9 August 1902982,868 Rikken Seiyūkai 19150.79% Emperor
Meiji

Flag of the Japanese Emperor.svg
(1867–1912)
1903 1 March 190386.17%(D) 28 December 1902958,32217546.54%
1904 1 March 1904 Katsura Tarō 86.06%379(D) 11 December 1903762,44513335.09%
(Saionji Kinmochi)
1908 15 May 1908 Saionji Kinmochi 85.29%(E) 27 March 19081,590,04518749.34%
(Katsura Tarō)
(Saionji Kinmochi)
1912 15 May 1912 Saionji Kinmochi 89.58%381(E) 14 May 19121,506,14320954.85%
(Katsura Tarō)
(Yamamoto Gonnohyōe)
(Ōkuma Shigenobu)
1915 25 March 1915 Ōkuma Shigenobu 92.13%(D) 25 December 19141,546,411 Rikken Dōshikai 15340.15% Emperor
Taishō

Flag of the Japanese Emperor.svg
(1912–1926)
(Terauchi Masatake)
1917 20 April 1917 Terauchi Masatake 91.92%(D) 25 January 19171,422,126 Rikken Seiyūkai 16543.30%
(Hara Takashi)
1920 10 May 1920 Hara Takashi 86.73%464(D) 26 February 19203,069,14827859.91%
(Takahashi Korekiyo)
(Katō Tomosaburō)
(Yamamoto Gonnohyōe)
(Kiyoura Keigo)
1924 10 May 1924 Katō Takaaki 91.18%(D) 31 January 19243,288,405 Kenseikai 15132.54%
(Wakatsuki Reijirō)
(Tanaka Giichi)
1928 20 February 1928 Tanaka Giichi 80.36%466(D) 21 January 192812,408,678 Rikken Seiyūkai 21846.78% Emperor
Shōwa

Flag of the Japanese Emperor.svg
(1926–1989)
(Hamaguchi Osachi)
1930 20 February 1930 Hamaguchi Osachi 83.34%(D) 21 January 193012,812,895 Rikken Minseitō 27358.58%
(Wakatsuki Reijirō)
(Inukai Tsuyoshi)
1932 20 February 1932 Inukai Tsuyoshi 81.68%(D) 21 January 193213,237,841 Rikken Seiyukai 30164.59%
(Saitō Makoto)
(Keisuke Okada)
1936 20 February 1936 Kōki Hirota 78.65%(D) 21 January 193614,479,553 Rikken Minseitō 20543.99%
(Senjūrō Hayashi)
1937 30 April 1937 Senjūrō Hayashi 73.31%(D) 31 March 193714,618,29817938.41%
(Fumimaro Konoe)
(Hiranuma Kiichirō)
(Nobuyuki Abe)
(Mitsumasa Yonai)
(Fumimaro Konoe)
(Fumimaro Konoe)
(Hideki Tojo)
1942 30 April 1942 Hideki Tojo 83.16%(E) 29 April 194214,594,287 Imperial Rule Assistance Association 38181.75%
(Kuniaki Koiso)
(Kantarō Suzuki)
(Kantarō Suzuki)
(Prince Naruhiko Higashikuni)
(Kijūrō Shidehara)
1946 10 April 1946 Shigeru Yoshida 72.08%(D) 18 December 194536,878,420 Liberal 14130.25%
1947 25 April 1947 Tetsu Katayama 67.95%(D) 31 March 194740,907,493 Socialist 14330.68%
(Hitoshi Ashida)
(Shigeru Yoshida)
National Diet (1947-present); upper house: House of Councillors
1949 23 January 1949 Shigeru Yoshida 74.04%466(D) 23 December 194842,105,300 Democratic Liberal 26456.65%
(Shigeru Yoshida)
1952 1 October 1952 Shigeru Yoshida 76.43%(D) 28 August 195246,772,584 Liberal 24051.50%
1953 19 April 1953 Shigeru Yoshida 74.22%(D) 14 March 195347,090,167 Liberal
Yoshida faction
19942.70%
(Ichirō Hatoyama)
1955 27 February 1955 Ichirō Hatoyama 75.84%467(D) 24 January 195549,235,375 Democratic 18539.61%
(Ichirō Hatoyama)
(Tanzan Ishibashi)
(Nobusuke Kishi)
1958 22 May 1958 Nobusuke Kishi 76.99%(D) 25 April 195852,013,529 Liberal Democratic 28761.45%
(Hayato Ikeda)
1960 20 November 1960 Hayato Ikeda 73.51%(D) 24 October 196054,312,99329663.38%
1963 21 November 1963 Hayato Ikeda 71.14%(D) 23 October 196358,281,67828360.59%
(Eisaku Satō)
1967 29 January 1967 Eisaku Satō 73.99%486(D) 27 December 196662,992,79627756.99%
1969 27 December 1969 Eisaku Satō 68.51%(D) 2 December 196969,260,42428859.25%
(Kakuei Tanaka)
1972 10 December 1972 Kakuei Tanaka 71.76%491(D) 13 November 197273,769,63627155.19%
(Takeo Miki)
1976 5 December 1976 Takeo Fukuda 73.45%511(E) 9 December 197677,926,58824948.72%
(Masayoshi Ōhira)
1979 7 October 1979 Masayoshi Ōhira 68.01%(D) 7 September 197980,169,92424848.53%
1980 22 June 1980 Zenkō Suzuki 74.57%(D) 19 May 198080,925,03428455.57%
(Yasuhiro Nakasone)
1983 18 December 1983 Yasuhiro Nakasone 67.94%(D) 28 November 198384,252,608 Liberal Democratic
(LDP-NLC coalition)
25048.92%
1986 2 June 1986 Yasuhiro Nakasone 71.40%512(D) 2 June 198686,426,845 Liberal Democratic 30058.59%
(Noboru Takeshita)
(Sōsuke Uno)
(Toshiki Kaifu)
1990 18 February 1990 Toshiki Kaifu 73.31%(D) 24 January 199090,322,90827553.71% Emperor
Akihito

(Heisei)

Flag of the Japanese Emperor.svg
(1989–2019)
(Kiichi Miyazawa)
1993 18 July 1993 Morihiro Hosokawa 67.26%511(D) 18 June 199394,477,816 Liberal Democratic
(JNP-JRPJSP-KomeitoDSP-NPS-SDF coalition:
1993-1994,
JRPKomeitoJNP-DSP-Liberal Reform League coalition:
1994,
LDP-JSP-NPS coalition
since 1994)
22343.63%
(Tsutomu Hata)
(Tomiichi Murayama)
(Ryūtarō Hashimoto)
1996 20 October 1996 Ryūtarō Hashimoto 59.65%500(D) 27 September 199697,680,719 Liberal Democratic
(LDP-JSP/SDP-NPS coalition:
1996,
LDP-Liberal coalition:
1999,
LDP-Komeito-Liberal/NCP coalition:
1999-2000,
LDP-Komeito-NCP coalition:
2000)
23947.80%
(Keizō Obuchi)
(Yoshirō Mori)
2000 25 June 2000 Yoshirō Mori 62.49%480(D) 2 June 2000100,492,328 Liberal Democratic
(LDP-Komeito-NCP coalition)
23348.54%
(Junichiro Koizumi)
ElectionDateElected prime minister
(during term)
TurnoutSeatsDate of
dissolution (D) /
expiration of term (E)
Registered
voters
Majority partySeats ShareMonarch
(Reign)

21st century

ElectionDateElected prime minister
(during term)
TurnoutSeatsDate of
dissolution (D) /
expiration of term (E)
Registered
voters
Majority partySeats ShareMonarch
(Reign)
2003 9 November 2003 Junichiro Koizumi 59.86%480(D) 10 October 2003102,306,684 Liberal Democratic
(LDP-Komeito coalition)
23749.37% Emperor
Akihito

(Heisei)

Flag of the Japanese Emperor.svg
(1989–2019)
2005 11 September 2005 Junichiro Koizumi 67.51%(D) 8 August 2005103,067,96629661.66%
(Shinzo Abe)
(Yasuo Fukuda)
(Tarō Asō)
2009 30 August 2009 Yukio Hatoyama 69.28%(D) 21 July 2009104,057,361 Democratic
(DPJ-PNP-SDP coalition:
2009-2010,
DPJ-PNP coalition:
2010-2012)
30864.16%
(Naoto Kan)
(Yoshihiko Noda)
2012 16 December 2012 Shinzo Abe 59.32%(D) 16 November 2012103,959,866 Liberal Democratic
(LDP-Komeito coalition)
29461.25%
2014 14 December 201452.66%475(D) 21 November 2014104,067,10429161.26%
2017 22 October 2017 Shinzo Abe 53.68%465(D) 28 September 2017106,091,22928461.08%
(Yoshihide Suga)
(Fumio Kishida)
2021 31 October 2021 Fumio Kishida 55.93%(D) 14 October 2021105,622,75826156.12% Emperor
Naruhito

(Reiwa)

Flag of the Japanese Emperor.svg
(2019–present)
ElectionDateElected prime minister
(during term)
TurnoutSeatsDate of
dissolution (D) /
expiration of term (E)
Registered
voters
Majority partySeats ShareMonarch
(Reign)

List of House of Councillors regular elections

20th century

21st century

Malapportionment

In the 1980s, apportionment of electoral districts still reflected the distribution of the population in the years following World War II, when only one-third of the people lived in urban areas and two thirds lived in rural areas. In the next forty-five years, the population became more than three-quarters urban, as people deserted rural communities to seek economic opportunities in Tokyo and other large cities. The lack of reapportionment led to a serious underrepresentation of urban voters. Urban districts in the House of Representatives were increased by five in 1964, bringing nineteen new representatives to the lower house; in 1975 six more urban districts were established, with a total of twenty new representatives allocated to them and to other urban districts. Yet great inequities remained between urban and rural voters.

In the early 1980s, as many as five times the votes were needed to elect a representative from an urban district compared with those needed for a rural district. Similar disparities existed in the prefectural constituencies of the House of Councillors. The Supreme Court had ruled on several occasions that the imbalance violated the constitutional principle of one person-one vote. The Supreme Court mandated the addition of eight representatives to urban districts and the removal of seven from rural districts in 1986. Several lower house districts' boundaries were redrawn. Yet the disparity was still as much as three urban votes to one rural vote.

After the 1986 change, the average number of persons per lower house representative was 236,424. However, the figure varied from 427,761 persons per representative in the fourth district of Kanagawa Prefecture, which contains the large city of Yokohama, to 142,932 persons in the third district of largely rural and mountainous Nagano Prefecture.

The 1993 reform government under Hosokawa Morihiro introduce a new electoral system whereby 200 members (reduced to 180 beginning with the 2000 election) are elected by proportional representation in multi-member districts or "blocs" while 300 are elected from single-candidate districts. [24]

Still, according to the 6 October 2006 issue of the Japanese newspaper Daily Yomiuri , "the Supreme Court followed legal precedent in ruling Wednesday that the House of Councillors election in 2004 was held in a constitutionally sound way despite a 5.13-fold disparity in the weight of votes between the nation's most densely and most sparsely populated electoral districts".[ citation needed ]

The 2009 general House of Representatives election was the first unconstitutional lower house election under the current electoral system introduced in 1994 (parallel voting and "small" FPTP single-member electoral districts/"Kakumander"). In March 2011, the Grand Bench (daihōtei) of the Supreme Court ruled that the maximum discrepancy of 2.30 in voting weight between the Kōchi 3 and Chiba 4 constituencies in the 2009 election was in violation of the constitutionally guaranteed equality of all voters. As in previous such rulings on unconstitutional elections (1972, 1980, 1983 and 1990 Representatives elections, 1992 Councillors election), the election is not invalidated, but the imbalance has to be corrected by the Diet through redistricting and/or reapportionment of seats between prefectures. [25]

In 2016, a panel of experts proposed to introduce the [John Quincy] Adams apportionment method (method of smallest divisors) for apportioning House of Representatives seats to prefectures. The reform is planned to be implemented after the 2020 census figures are available and not expected to take effect before 2022. [26] In the meantime, another redistricting and apportionment passed in 2017 is designed to keep the maximum malapportionment ratio in the House of Representatives below 2. In the FPTP tier, it changes 97 districts and cuts six without adding any; in the proportional tier, four "blocks" lose a seat each; the total number of seats in the lower house is cut to 465, 289 majoritarian seats and 176 proportional seats. [27]

The malapportionment in the 2010 [28] and 2013 [29] regular House of Councillors elections was ruled unconstitutional (or "in an unconstitutional state") by the Supreme Court, and has been reduced by a 2015 reapportionment below 3 (at least in government statistics from census data which is regular and standardized but lags behind resident registration statistics and the actual number of eligible voters; using the latter, the maximum malapportionment in the 2016 election remained slightly above 3 [30] [31] ).

The following table lists the 10 electoral districts with the highest and lowest number of registered voters per member elected for each chamber of the National Diet according to the voter statistics as of September 2016 released by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications – it takes into account the lowering of the voting age and the district reforms to both houses of the Diet in effect since the 2014 and 2016 elections, but not the 2017 redistricting/reapportionment effective from the next House of Representatives election.

Electoral districts with the highest and lowest voting weight for the National Diet as of 2016 [32]
House of Representatives House of Councillors
Lowest vote weightHighest vote weightLowest vote weightHighest vote weight
#DistrictRegistered votersDistrictRegistered votersDistrictRegistered voters
per member elected
DistrictRegistered voters
per member elected
#
1 Tokyo 1 514,974 Fukushima 4 233,491 Saitama 1,015,543 Fukui 328,7721
2 Hokkaidō 1 505,510 Miyagi 5 234,373 Niigata 978,686 Saga 346,7272
3 Tokyo 3 504,929 Kagoshima 5 240,056 Miyagi 975,466 Yamanashi 353,4023
4 Tokyo 5 498,903 Tottori 1 240,874 Kanagawa 951,735 Kagawa 417,0824
5 Hyōgo 6 492,173 Nagasaki 3 242,165 Tokyo 937,470 Wakayama 419,0115
6 Tokyo 6 490,674 Tottori 2 242,194 Osaka 915,000 Akita 448,2366
7 Tokyo 19 488,494 Nagasaki 4 242,303 Nagano 885,638 Toyama 452,8227
8 Tokyo 22 486,965 Aomori 3 244,007 Chiba 871,110 Miyazaki 466,8298
9 Saitama 3 483,014 Mie 4 244,825 Gifu 850,190 Yamagata 475,4199
10 Tokyo 23 481,206 Iwate 3 246,272 Tochigi 827,368 Ishikawa 481,02710

Prefectural and local elections

Unified local elections (統一地方選挙 tōitsu chihō senkyo) are held once every four years. Prefectural assemblies and governors, as well as mayors and assemblies in municipalities, are elected for four-year terms. In April 1947, all local elections in the 46 prefectures (excluding Okinawa, then under US military rule) and all their municipalities were held at the same time in "unified local elections". Since then, some gubernatorial and mayoral elections, and most assembly elections, have stayed on this original four-year cycle. Most governors and mayors are now elected on different schedules as the four-year cycle "resets" upon the resignation, death or removal of a sitting governor or mayor. Some assembly election cycles have also shifted due to assembly dissolutions or mergers of municipalities. The most recent were the 2019 Japanese unified local elections.

Types of Japanese local elections

Administrative divisions of Japan; 47 prefectures, 792 cities, 743 towns, 183 villages (not inducing the six villages in the Kuril Islands dispute area) and 23 special wards of Tokyo.

Unified elections

As of 2015, the major contests in the unified local elections are as follows:

PrefectureGovernorAssembly Designated city races
Hokkaido Sapporo mayor
Sapporo assembly
Aomori
Akita
Yamagata
Tochigi
Gunma
Saitama Saitama assembly
Chiba Chiba assembly
Kanagawa Yokohama assembly
Kawasaki assembly
Sagamihara mayor
Sagamihara assembly
Niigata Niigata assembly
Toyama
Ishikawa
Fukui
Yamanashi
Nagano
Gifu
Shizuoka Shizuoka mayor
Hamamatsu mayor
Hamamatsu assembly
Aichi Nagoya assembly
Mie
Shiga
Kyoto Kyoto assembly
Osaka Osaka assembly
Sakai assembly
Hyogo Kobe assembly
Nara
Wakayama
Tottori
Shimane
Okayama Okayama assembly
Hiroshima Hiroshima mayor
Hiroshima assembly
Yamaguchi
Tokushima
Kagawa
Ehime
Kōchi
Fukuoka Fukuoka assembly
Saga
Nagasaki
Kumamoto Kumamoto assembly
Oita
Miyazaki
Kagoshima

Although Tokyo's metropolitan governor and assembly elections are currently held on separate schedules, 21 of the 23 special wards of Tokyo follow the unified election schedule for their assembly elections, the only exceptions being Katsushika and Adachi. The majority of Tokyo's special wards follow separate cycles for their mayoral elections. Tokyo elected its governor as part of the unified elections until 2011, but was forced to hold a 2012 election and 2014 election due to the resignations of Shintaro Ishihara and Naoki Inose.

Iwate Prefecture, Miyagi Prefecture and Fukushima Prefecture are no longer on the unified election cycle due to the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, which delayed their elections.

List of unified local elections

Other major local election cycles

Ballots, voting machines and early voting

A used Japanese ballot paper from the 1952 House of Representatives election, in this case spoilt by writing "There is no suitable person" (Gai Dang Zhe nashi
, Gaito-sha Nashi). The only thing that is literally "on the ballot" in Japan before a voter votes is an empty box titled "candidate name" (Hou Bu Zhe Shi Ming 
, Koho-sha Shimei) and usually a text next to it with general notes such as "Please don't write anything other than the name of an actual candidate." or "Please don't write outside the box." Faulty ballot paper of 1952 Japanese general election 07.jpg
A used Japanese ballot paper from the 1952 House of Representatives election, in this case spoilt by writing "There is no suitable person" (該当者なし, Gaitō-sha Nashi). The only thing that is literally "on the ballot" in Japan before a voter votes is an empty box titled "candidate name" (候補者氏名, Kōho-sha Shimei) and usually a text next to it with general notes such as "Please don't write anything other than the name of an actual candidate." or "Please don't write outside the box."
A sample ballot paper for a House of Representatives election according to a 1945 Home Ministry ordinance Showa0020 naimushorei0031 tohyoyoshikino1 1.png
A sample ballot paper for a House of Representatives election according to a 1945 Home Ministry ordinance

Votes in national and most local elections are cast by writing the candidate's or party's name on a blank ballot paper. In elections for the House of Representatives voters fill in two ballots, one with the name of their preferred district candidate and one with their preferred party in the proportional representation block. For the House of Councillors, the district vote is similar (in SNTV multi-member districts, several candidates can be elected, but every voter has only one vote). But in the proportional vote for the House of Councillors votes are cast for a party list (to determine how many proportional seats a party receives) or a candidate (which additionally influences which candidates are elected from a party's list). [33]

Ballots that cannot unambiguously be assigned to a candidate are not considered invalid, but are assigned to all potentially intended candidates proportionally to the unambiguous votes each candidate has received. These so-called "proportional fractional votes" (按分票, Anbun-hyō) are rounded to the third decimal. [34] [35] For example, if "Yamada A" and "Yamada B" both stood in an election and there were 1500 unambiguous votes: 1000 for "Yamada A" and 500 for "Yamada B"; five ambiguous votes for "Yamada" would then count for Yamada A as 5×1000/1500=3.333 votes, and for Yamada B as 5×500/1500=1.667 votes. The official overall result would then be: Yamada A 1003.333 votes, Yamada B 501.667 votes.

In 2002, passage of an electronic voting law [36] allowed for the introduction of electronic voting machines in local elections. [37] The first machine vote took place in Niimi, Okayama in June 2002. [38] In 2003, a system for early voting (期日前投票制度, Kijitsu-mae tōhyō seido) was introduced. [39] In the 2017 general/House of Representatives election, a record number of more than 21 million Japanese voted early; [40] at the same time overall turnout was low (the second lowest in history), so in 2017, roughly 38 % of all actual voters had voted early. For regular/House of Councillors elections, the 2019 election set a new all-time high with more than 17 million early voters, [41] corresponding to roughly a third of actual voters in 2019 as overall turnout hit the second lowest value in history.

Walkovers

In Japan, walkovers in elections are called Mutōhyō tōsen (無投票当選), "[being] elected without vote". And there is literally no vote held in a walkover in Japan, no way to vote "no" or abstain explicitly: If there are only as many candidates in an election as there are seats/offices at the start of the legal election period ("official announcement": kōji (公示) in national general and regular elections; kokuji (告示) in prefectural and municipal elections as well as national by-elections), they are declared the winners. But the otherwise applicable moratorium period after regular elections on recall attempts does not apply after a walkover. (Recalls are a two-/three-step procedure: first, supporters of a recall must collect a sufficient number of signatures; if they do, a referendum is held on whether or not to recall the incumbent; only if that is accepted by a majority, a fresh election is scheduled.) Article 100 of the Public Offices Election Law deals with walkovers, [42] there are additional walkover provisions for subnational elections in the Local Autonomy Law.

Walkovers have become widespread in prefectural and municipal elections in recent years; in the 2019 unified local elections, out of 2277 seats up in 945 electoral districts for 41 prefectural assemblies, a record 612 seats are won by walkovers in a total of 371 districts or 39% of all electoral districts. In one extreme case, a rural single-member electoral district to the Shimane prefectural assembly, there hasn't been a contested election in 31 years (the whole Heisei period). [43] [44]

See also

Related Research Articles

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