Election Resources on the Internet:
Parliamentary Elections in Japan, Parts I and II
by Manuel Álvarez-Rivera

Japan held another early House of Representatives election on Sunday, December 14, 2014. An overview of the electoral systems used to choose members of both houses of the National Diet of Japan is presented here; the country's political party system will be reviewed in Part III of this presentation.

Nationwide, (2000, 2003, 2005, 2009, 2012, 2014) electoral bloc- and (2000 to 2014) prefecture-level results are available here for the following House of Councillors and House of Representatives elections:

      December 14, 2014               House of Representatives      
      July 21, 2013       House of Councillors              
      December 16, 2012               House of Representatives      
      July 11, 2010       House of Councillors              
      August 30, 2009               House of Representatives      
      July 29, 2007       House of Councillors              
      September 11, 2005               House of Representatives      
      July 11, 2004       House of Councillors              
      November 9, 2003               House of Representatives      
      July 29, 2001       House of Councillors              
      June 25, 2000               House of Representatives      
      July 12, 1998       House of Councillors              
      October 20, 1996               House of Representatives      

The election statistics presented in this space come from reports and data files issued by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications and (for 2000 electoral bloc- and prefecture-level results) the Tottori Prefecture.

General Aspects of the Electoral System

The Parliament of Japan, the National Diet, is composed of a lower house, the House of Representatives (Shugiin), and an upper house, the House of Councillors (Sangiin). Both houses must pass all legislative bills before they can become law. Nonetheless, the House of Representatives has greater legislative power than the House of Councillors: bills passed by the House of Representatives but rejected by the House of Councillors become law if they are approved on a subsequent House of Representatives vote by a two-thirds (or greater) majority. Moreover, in the event of a disagreement between the two houses concerning the budget, treaties or the designation of a prime minister - Japan's head of government - the House of Representatives has the final word.

The House of Representatives is composed of 475 members (previously 480) elected for a maximum term of four years by universal adult suffrage at the age of 20. A total of 295 seats (previously 300) are filled in single-member districts by the first-past-the-post method, under which the candidate obtaining the largest number of votes in each district is elected to office. The remaining 180 seats are apportioned in eleven electoral blocs (multi-member constituencies) according to the largest average method of proportional representation conceived by Belgian mathematician Victor D'Hondt.

The House of Councillors' 242 members are elected for a six-year term of office. A total of 146 seats are filled in forty-seven prefectural districts or constituencies by the Single Non-Transferable Vote (SNTV) system, under which electors cast a vote for a single candidate, and the candidates with the largest number of votes in each district, up to the number of seats to be filled, are elected to office. The remaining 96 seats are distributed on a nationwide basis by the D'Hondt method. Half the members of the House of Councillors are elected every three years.

Unlike the House of Representatives, the House of Councillors has a fixed term of office and cannot be dissolved by the Prime Minister.

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Last update: January 26, 2015.