Saturday, October 27, 2012

Why Is No One Worrying about the Lower House Redistricting Process?

The House of Representatives Electoral Districts Determination Council Establishment Act (HREDDCEA) sets forth a process that requires the Council to issue a recommendation to the prime minister for redistricting the lower house single-seat constituencies based on the latest National Census, which is conducted once every ten years. The last time they did this, in 2000-2001, it took 30 sessions after the Census became available over a whole year for the Council to come up with its recommendation. The current Council met on and off since June 17, 2009, took a look at the preliminary results of the Census for the first time at its sixth session on March 28 of this year, but has lain dormant since then as the politics of the times overwhelmed the advisory process. So what makes people think that the Noda cabinet can call a snap election within the year based on a simple five-up, five-down deal if the Council must go through a couple of dozen more sessions before it can come up with a recommendation?

It can’t, of course. And that is why none of this matters.

For HREDDCEA is just a law that has no particular constitutional authority. As such, it can be superseded by subsequent legislation that bypasses it altogether.* In this case, the political parties have no choice but to ignore the Council in order to meet whatever political deadline they end up imposing on themselves.

There is a small possibility that Noda winds up calling a snap election without a deal in place. What happens then? An election, of course. Someone may file a lawsuit to try and stop that and, failing that, another one after the election to have it ruled null and void. I’ve gone over this question before; suffice to say for now that there is little chance that either of these lawsuits will succeed, since the courts are not equipped to resolve the more serious constitutional issues that arise from the kind of rulings necessary to satisfy the plaintiff. That said, there will be enough political fallout on whichever player or players who are seen as the main culprit for an election under the current single-seat districts to all but ensure that such an event will not take place.

* The laws of men and women must not be confused with the laws of physics, which prevent you from, among other things, decreeing that the Earth [is flat] and make that stick. The first are normative, while the latter are descriptive and moreover falsifiable.

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