Elections in Japan
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Politics and government of
The Japanese political system has three types of elections: general elections to the House of Representatives held every four years (unless the lower house is dissolved earlier), elections to the House of Councillors held every three years to choose one-half of its members, and local elections held every four years for offices in prefectures, cities, and villages. Elections are supervised by election committees at each administrative level under the general direction of the Central Election Administration Committee, an attached organization to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC). The minimum voting age is twenty years; voters must satisfy a three-month residency requirement before being allowed to cast a ballot. For those seeking office, 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. Each deposit for candidacy is 3 million yen (30 thousand dollars) for single-seat constituency and 6 million yen (60 thousand dollars) for proportional representation.
National elections 
The National Diet (Kokkai) has two chambers. The House of Representatives (Shugi-in) has 480 members, elected for a four-year term, 300 members in single-seat constituencies and 180 members by proportional representation in 11 block districts. In this system, each voter votes twice, once for a candidate in the local constituency, and once for a party, each of which has a list of candidates for each block district. The local constituencies are decided by plurality, and the block seats are then handed out to party lists proportionally (by the D'Hondt method) to their share of the vote. Often the parties assign the block list spots to single-seat candidates, so that unsuccessful single-seat candidates 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 system determines the order of candidates. General elections of members of the House of Representatives (Shūgiin 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 House of Councillors (Sangi-in) has 242 members, elected for a six-year term, 146 members in 47 single- and multi-seat constituencies (prefectures) by single non-transferable vote and 96 by proportional representation (by D'Hondt method) on the national level. 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 exclusively determine the ranking of candidates on party lists. Half of the House of Councillors comes up for election every three years in regular elections of members of the House of Councillors (Sangiin giin tsūjō-senkyo).
Vacant district seats in both Houses are generally filled in by-elections (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 (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 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. 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 (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 Socialist Party. The 2009 House of Representatives elections handed the first non-LDP victory to the Democratic Party of Japan. Due to the majoritarian parallel voting system it is unlikely that Japan will develop a multi-party system, but there is speculation that after 2009, Japan will develop a two-party system.
Latest results 
2012 General election 
|Alliances and parties||Local constituency vote||PR block vote||Total seats||+/−|
|Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Jimintō||25,643,309||43.01||237||16,624,457||27.79||57||294||61.25||176||175|
|New Komeito Party (NKP) Kōmeitō ("Justice Party")||885,881||1.49||9||7,116,474||11.90||22||31||6.46||10||10|
|Prospective LDP–NKP Coalition||26,529,190||44.49||246||23,740,931||39.69||79||325||67.71||186||185|
|Democratic Party (DPJ) Minshutō||13,598,773||22.81||27||9,268,653||15.49||30||57||11.88||173||251|
|Restoration Party (JRP) Ishin no Kai||6,942,353||11.64||14||12,262,228||20.50||40||54||11.25||43||—|
|Your Party (YP) Minna no Tō||2,807,244||4.71||4||5,245,586||8.77||14||18||3.75||10||10|
|Tomorrow Party (TPJ) Mirai no Tō||2,992,365||5.02||2||3,423,915||5.72||7||9||1.88||52||—|
|Communist Party (JCP) Kyōsantō||4,700,289||7.88||0||3,689,159||6.17||8||8||1.67||1||1|
|Social Democratic Party (SDP) Shakai Minshutō||451,762||0.76||1||1,420,790||2.38||1||2||0.42||3||5|
|People's New Party (PNP) Kokumin Shintō||117,185||0.20||1||70,847||0.12||0||1||0.21||2||2|
|New Party Daichi (NPD) Shintō Daichi||315,604||0.53||0||346,848||0.58||1||1||0.21||2||0|
|Happiness Realization Party (HRP) Kōfuku Jitsugentō||102,634||0.10||0||216,150||0.30||0||0||0.00||0||0|
|Total opposition parties||32,090,906||53.82||49||36,078,957||60.31||101||150||31.25||180||249|
2010 House of Councillors election 
|Alliances and parties||Prefectural constituency vote||National PR vote||Elected in 2010||Seats
|Votes||%||Seats||+/− ||Votes||%||Seats||+/− |
|Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) Minshutō – 民主党||22,756,000.342||38.97%||28||8||18,450,139.059||31.56%||16||2||44||62||106||10|
|People's New Party (PNP) Kokuminshintō – 国民新党||167,555||0.29%||0||2||1,000,036.492||1.71%||0||1||0||3||3||3|
|New Party Nippon (NPN) Shintō Nippon – 新党日本||no candidate||0||1||1||0|
|Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Jimintō – 自民党||19,496,083||33.38%||39||14||14,071,671.422||24.07%||12||1||51||33||84||13|
|New Komeito Party (NKP) Kōmeitō – 公明党||2,265,818||3.88%||3||0||7,639,432.739||13.07%||6||2||9||10||19||2|
|New Renaissance Party (NRP) Shintō Kaikaku – 新党改革||625,431||1.07%||0||3||1,172,395.190||2.01%||1||1||1||1||2||4|
|former LDP–NKP—NRP Coalition||22,387,332||38.33%||42||11||22,883,529.351||39.15%||19||4||61||44||105||7|
|Your Party (YP) Minna no Tō – みんなの党||5,977,391.485||10.24%||3||3||7,943,649.369||13.59%||7||7||10||1||11||10|
|Japanese Communist Party (JCP) Kyōsantō – 共産党||4,256,400||7.29%||0||0||3,563,556.590||6.10%||3||1||3||3||6||1|
|Social Democratic Party (SDP) Shamintō – 社民党||602,684||1.03%||0||0||2,242,735.155||3.84%||2||0||2||2||4||0|
|Sunrise Party of Japan (SPJ) Tachini – たち日||328,475||0.56%||0||1||1,232,207.336||2.11%||1||1||1||2||3||0|
|Happiness Realization Party (HRP) Kōfuku – 幸福||291,810||0.50%||0||0||229,026.162||0.39%||0||0||0||1||1||0|
|Total (turnout 57.92%)||58,400,807.899||100.0%||73||1||58,453,432.438||100.0%||48||0||121||121||242||1|
2009 General election 
|Alliances and parties||Local constituency vote||PR block vote||Total
|Democratic Party (DPJ)||33,475,335||47.43%||221||29,844,799||42.41%||87||308||193||195|
|Social Democratic Party (SDP)||1,376,739||1.95%||3||3,006,160||4.27%||4||7||0||0|
|People's New Party (PNP)||730,570||1.04%||3||1,219,767||1.73%||0||3||1||1|
|New Party Nippon||220,223||0.31%||1||528,171||0.75%||0||1||1||0|
|New Party Daichi||no district candidates||433,122||0.62%||1||1||0||0|
|Ruling DPJ–SDP–PNP coalition & parliamentary allies||35,802,866||50.73%||228||35,032,019||49.78%||92||320||193||194|
|Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)||27,301,982||38.68%||64||18,810,217||26.73%||55||119||181||177|
|New Komeito Party (NKP)||782,984||1.11%||0||8,054,007||11.45%||21||21||10||10|
|Japan Renaissance Party||36,650||0.05%||0||58,141||0.08%||0||0||1||0|
|Opposition LDP–NKP coalition & parliamentary allies||28,121,613||39.84%||64||26,922,365||38.26%||76||140||192||187|
|Japanese Communist Party (JCP)||2,978,354||4.22%||0||4,943,886||7.03%||9||9||0||0|
|Your Party (YP)||615,244||0.87%||2||3,005,199||4.27%||3||5||1||5|
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.
Still, according to the October 6, 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".
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.
The malapportionment in the 2010 regular House of Councillors election was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in October 2012.
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 2012 released by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.
|House of Representatives||House of Councillors|
|Lowest vote weight||Highest vote weight||Lowest vote weight||Highest vote weight|
|#||District||Registered voters||District||Registered voters||District||Registered voters
per member elected
per member elected
|1||Chiba 4||497,350||Kōchi 3||205,461||Kanagawa||1,227,896||Tottori||241,481||1|
|2||Kanagawa 10||494,755||Nagasaki 3||210,149||Osaka||1,188,371||Shimane||294,037||2|
|3||Tokyo 6||486,353||Miyagi 5||212,262||Hokkaidō||1,147,071||Kōchi||316,870||3|
|4||Hokkaidō 1||485,001||Fukui 3||212,408||Hyōgo||1,138,829||Fukui||325,996||4|
|5||Tokyo 3||482,494||Kōchi 2||213,606||Tokyo||1,076,763||Tokushima||326,800||5|
|6||Tokyo 1||479,891||Tokushima 3||213,937||Fukuoka||1,031,611||Saga||343,737||6|
|7||Hyōgo 6||477,012||Tokushima 1||214,535||Aichi||979,962||Yamanashi||350,271||7|
|8||Tokyo 19||469,133||Kōchi 1||214,672||Saitama||979,885||Fukushima||406,880||8|
|9||Tokyo 23||464,989||Fukui 2||217,902||Chiba||845,925||Kagawa||413,684||9|
|10||Tokyo 22||464,807||Yamanashi 1||218,115||Tochigi||815,655||Wakayama||420,821||10|
Prefectural and local elections 
Prefectural assemblies and governors, as well as mayors and assemblies in municipalities are elected for four-year terms. Every chief executive or assembly has an independent four-year election cycle that may change after resignations, deaths, recalls etc. Many prefectural and municipal elections are held at the same time in the "unified local elections" (tōitsu chihō senkyo); in the last unified local elections in April 2011, 13 of 47 governors, 44 of 47 prefectural assemblies, 489 of 1,750 mayors and 747 of 1,750 municipal assemblies were scheduled to be elected; but one gubernatorial, three prefectural assembly and several municipal elections in Eastern Japan were postponed as a result of the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011.
In the first unified election in April 1947, all local elections in the then 46 prefectures (Okinawa was under military rule) and all their municipalities were unified. As of January 2013, non-unified local elections include:
- on the prefectural level
- gubernatorial elections
- last held in 2009: Miyagi, Ibaraki, Shizuoka, Hyōgo, Hiroshima
- last held in 2010: Fukushima, Ishikawa, Nagano, Shiga, Kyoto, Wakayama, Kagawa, Ehime, Nagasaki, Okinawa
- last held in 2011 (but not in the unified elections in April): Aomori, Iwate, Gunma, Saitama, Yamanashi, Aichi, Osaka, Kōchi, Miyazaki
- last held in 2012: Tochigi, Tokyo, Niigata, Toyama, Okayama, Yamaguchi, Kumamoto, Kagoshima
- last held in 2012: Akita, Yamagata, Chiba, Gifu
- assembly elections
- gubernatorial elections
- on the municipal level
Ballots, voting machines and early voting 
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).
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, ambunhyō) are rounded to the third decimal. For example, if "Yamada A" and "Yamada B" both stood in an election, had received an equal number of unambiguous votes and a voter just wrote "Yamada" on the ballot paper, both Yamadas would get half a vote each; if there were already ten votes for "Yamada A" and five votes for "Yamada B", any vote for "Yamada" would count for Yamada A as two thirds of a vote, and for Yamada B as one third of a vote.
In 2002, passage of an electronic voting law allowed for the introduction of electronic voting machines in local elections. The first machine vote took place in Niimi, Okayama in June 2002. In 2003, a system for early voting (期日前投票制度, kijitsu-mae tōhyō seido) was introduced. In the Japanese general election, 2009 a record number of more than 10 million Japanese voted early.
See also 
- Nishikawa, Yoko (2010-04-04). "Nearly half of Japan's voters don't support any party". Reuters. Retrieved 2010-04-05.
- General election results final. Yomiuri Shimbun. 17 December 2012.
- Decimals from fractional votes (ambunhyō) rounded to full numbers
- Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications: Results of the 22nd House of Councillors election
- compared to the seats held before the election
- independent member of the DPJ parliamentary group, not a member of New Party Nippon by the time he took his seat as replacement for Yasuo Tanaka: 
- includes one OSMP member (not up), and one independent member of the SDP parliamentary group (seat lost in this election)
- General election results final breakdown. Kyodo News. August 31, 2009.
- Psephos - Adam Carr. August 31, 2009.
- Nihon Keizai Shimbun. August 31, 2009.
- Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Home Office, Election Department (総務省自治行政局選挙部): Results of the 45th House of Representatives election, complete edition (45衆結果調全体版)
- Decimals from fractional votes (anbunhyō) rounded to full numbers
- The Social Democratic Party withdrew from the ruling coalition on May 30, 2010 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10193171
- The New Party Nippon (Yasuo Tanaka) withdrew support for the cabinet in April 2012 http://www.kobe-np.co.jp/news/shakai/0004951857.shtml
- Happiness Realization Party (kōfuku-jitsugen-tō) 459,387, Essential Party (shintō honshitsu) 7,399
- includes 3 members of the Hiranuma Group; 2 independents joined the DPJ parliamentary group immediately after the election
- Jiji Tsūshin, March 23, 2011: ０９年衆院選は違憲状態＝１人別枠方式「平等に反する」－廃止要請・最高裁大法廷
- Asahi Shimbun, Asia & Japan Watch, October 18, 2012: Japan's 2 Diet chambers both ruled all but 'unconstitutional'
- Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (Sōmu-shō, lit. "Ministry of general affairs"): 平成24年9月2日現在選挙人名簿及び在外選挙人名簿登録者数
- Ministr of Internal Affairs and Communications, January 1, 2011: Statistics for the 2011 unified local elections
- Kamiya, Setsuko, "Some election campaign rules outdated, quirky", Japan Times, 11 December 2012, p. 3
- "ザ･選挙大事典>按分". ザ・選挙 (in Japanese). JANJAN (Japan Alternative News for Justices and New Cultures). Retrieved June 7, 2009.
- MIC: 電磁的記録式投票制度について
- Kōbe Shimbun, June 28, 2002: 全国初の電子投票ルポ 岡山・新見市
- MIC: 期日前投票制度
- The Japan Times, August 30, 2009: Record-high 10.9 million voters cast early ballots
- Adam Carr's Election Archive
- Daily Yomiuri Online: Inequality at the polls must be corrected
- (Japanese) MIC: Elections, political funds
- Free Choice Foundation: Election system in Japan