The writer went to Japan as an observer during its last parliamentary elections held a few months ago. Though belated, this article would give some insight to the readers about the electoral process in Japan besides shedding some light on the transparency of the process. The article has been edited for clarity purposes.Japan is an island nation in East Asia located in the Pacific Ocean that lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south. The characters that make up Japan’s name mean “sun-origin”, which is why Japan is often referred to as the “Land of the Rising Sun”.
Japan is a stratovolcanic archipelago of 6,852 islands. The four largest islands are Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku, which together comprise about ninety-seven percent of Japan’s land area. Japan has the world’s tenth-largest population, with over 126 million people. Honshu’s Greater Tokyo Area, which includes the de facto capital of Tokyo and several surrounding prefectures, is the largest metropolitan area in the world, with over 30 million residents. Since adopting its revised constitution in 1947, Japan has maintained a unitary constitutional monarchy with an emperor and an elected legislature called the Diet.
Major Political Parties
• The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)
• Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ)
• Restoration Party
• Next Generation Party
• Communist Party
• Life Party
• The Social Democratic Party
• New Renaissance Party etc
Outline of Japanese Electoral System
• House of Representative – 4 Year term with dissolution
480 seats -475 Election 2014
Members are elected under the following two systems:-
• Single-member constituency system (300 seats; 295 in this election):
One seat per district.
• Proportional representation system (180 seats):
6– 29 seats per district (Total 11 districts)
• House of Councilors – 6 year term, half members elected every 3 years.
Local constituency system (146 seats): 2 – 10 seats per district 47 districts
In total = prefectural basis
Proportional representation system (96 seats): no district
Local Election 4 year term
Universal suffrage is guaranteed to all Japanese nationals over 20 years of age, since 1945, after the World War II. (Art. 15 of the Constitution of Japan, Act. 9 of the Public Offices Election Law). Universal suffrage was first granted to all men over 25 years of age in 1925.
Equality of Votes
The equality of votes stipulated by the Constitution of Japan can also mean that values of the votes by every elector are equal. Therefore, the Constitution guarantees not only the equality of the opportunity to vote but also the equality of the value of each vote (Art. 14 of the Constitution of Japan).
Secrecy in Election
Secrecy of the ballot is guaranteed. A voter shall bear no responsibility to announce his or her choice in voting publicly or privately (Art. 15 of the Constitution of Japan).
Election Based on the Principle of Representative Democracy
The elected persons do not represent one particular part of the populace such as specific class, a specific party or residents of a specific electoral district, but all nationals as a whole (Art. 43 of the Constitution of Japan).
During these parliamentary elections, the lowest turnout in Japan’s history particularly especially in the case of youth was observed. If this state of affairs continues, it may affect the democratic process of the country in future. Therefore, it will be appropriate that Election Management Body may create greater interest and awareness of elections among voters particularly in youth through various voter interest and education programmes and training. These measures can be both in the long and short term.
More opportunities may be provided to International Observers to meet with the political stakeholders. To completely understand the entire process of election it will make more sense that the duration of stay of the observers is increased.
Pakistan has an elaborate and comprehensive process and system of elections, while Japan has an appealing free and fair election system. Both Pakistan and Japan can benefit from each other’s experience in different areas of elections like voters awareness campaign and observation by local and international observers etc.
I must commend the wonderful arrangements that were made for the International Observers by the Embassy of Japan in Pakistan and MOFA Japan. It is also worth mentioning about the informative briefings arranged by them at the Nihon University and at GRIPS by world renowned professors, a useful briefing by Yomiuri Newspaper and visit of the Diet building.
As a final comment, the whole process of elections was wholly reflective of a civilized, well disciplined, cultured, responsible, and peace loving nation.