TOKYO, March 19 (Xinhua) -- The Tokyo High Court on Thursday dismissed plaintiffs' demands to nullify the results of the Dec. 14 Lower House election in 11 prefectures across Japan, ruling that the uppermost voter-district ratio disparity of 2.13 times was constitution.
Thursday's ruling marks the first in a series of 17 cases filed by two sets of lawyers at 14 high courts across the nation, all seeking the election results of all 295 single-seat electoral districts to be repealed.
The lawyers petitioning the high courts believe that the disparity in the weight of votes between numerous districts across prefectures in Japan is in violation of the nation's Constitution, Article 14 which states that under the law all people are equal.
Despite the lawyers claiming that the maximum disparity between the Miyagi No. 5 district and the Tokyo No. 1 district stood at 2. 13 times, Presiding Judge Toru Odan ruled that the general election was constitutional as the disparity had been reduced due to a reduction in the number of single-seat constituencies from 300 to 295.
The disparity in vote weight gap "was not a level that violates the constitutional equality of value of votes," Odan said, adding that efforts made by parliament to fix the situation had been adequate.
Japan's highest legal authority, the Supreme Court, has previously called for a wholesale referendum of the electoral system, which the ruling Liberal Democratic Party vowed to do as part of their political campaign before they ousted the Democrats, but as yet have only made minor amendments to the election law in 2012, seeking reforms to be fully concluded ahead of the 2016 upper house elections.
Pressure has been on Abe to, as per his original election campaign pledge, comprehensively reform the electoral process and ensure the voter-representative ratio disparity be corrected nationwide to a point that lawyers can never call Japan's Constitution into question, but as the legal groups gear up for 16 more cases, it would seem, as political observers have attested, the government's moves towards this, have been woefully insufficient.
Indeed, in 2011 the Supreme Court slammed the electoral map for the lower house of parliament, stating it was in a "state of unconstitutionality" due to it "disenfranchising" the electorate and as such electoral reform was in "dire need."
Specifically, it stated in March 2011 that the gap of up to 2.3 times in the weight of votes in a 2009 lower house election was " in a state of unconstitutionality," but the 2012 general election went ahead regardless, with Abe vowing to reform the electoral system once he was in office -- a pledge yet to come to full fruition despite plenty of time being allocated for the ruling bloc to enact a fully constitutional electoral map.
Thus far, the revisions made have reduced the maximum disparity to just under two, but the new measures were not fully finalized prior to the snap election being called that saw Abe and his LDP regain power in Japan following the 2012 elections.
Re-zoning to address the disparity has since been completed, but authorities say that some serious disparities still remain between urban and rural areas and, in some cases, have widened.
Political analysts have suggested that Abe may be hedging his bets in the upcoming cases at the high courts and indeed in the next upper house elections that in the past 60-years, the Supreme Court has never overturned an election result because of a voting disparity, despite a number of post-election backlashes from an electorate who feel they have been hugely misrepresented, as firstly there has been no precedent, and, secondly due to this mayhem would ensue.
The loop hole for Abe, has been that changing the vote-district ration disparity comes at parliament's discretion and the Diet, this far, has only done the bare minimum to best exploit this loophole by reducing just five single-seat electoral districts to reduce the vote-value disparity, political watchers here said, with all experts reiterating the fact that the election went ahead without the reforms of the system to, without condition, allocate one seat to each of the 47 prefectures, prior to the remaining seats being distributed in proportion to their districts' respective populations.