2020年01月14日

【Essay】The Japanese translation of Against Elections

 The Japanese translation of David Van Reybrouck’s Against Elections (Tegen Verkiezingen) appeared in April 2019 with an impressive hardcover【Link】. It was translated from Dutch to Japanese by OKAZAKI Seiki, Professor at Kyushu University, and Dimitri Vanoverbeke, Professor at KU Leuven. Despite being a little expensive (3400 yen excluding tax), the book was enthusiastically accepted by the public as soon as it was published【Link】. Three of the four national newspapers published a book review: the Yomiuri Shimbun on May 19, the Asahi Shimbun on June 1, and the Nikkei on August 10. Many regional newspapers printed a book review transmitted by Kyodo News. Other newspapers and magazines also reviewed the book favourably. Supported by these reviews, the book was reprinted as early as September 2019.

 The book’s success can be explained partly by its timely publication. The year 2019 was an important year for elections in a 12-year cycle, wherein the nationwide local elections (every 4 years) and the upper house elections (every 3 years) were held in the same year. It was thus natural for Japanese citizens to be interested in Against Elections. At the same time, 2019 marked the 10th anniversary of the the lay judge trial system and of the mandatory prosecution through citizen review of non-charge decisions. These are both reforms related to the criminal justice system in Japan enhancing the participation of citizens using sortition in a procedure that was until then exclusive territory of professionals. As the Supreme Court noted, the lay judge system has become well accepted and acquired legitimacy in Japanese society. Japanese citizens have become familiar with sortition in the judicial system and realize how this enhances quality and democracy in the courts. This is probably one of the reasons that Japanese citizens are interested in the central arguments developed in Against Elections and why sortition was not immediately rejected a proposal unfeasible for Japanese society.

 However, the most important factor for the book’s success is the wide and deep distrust of party politics. Opinion polls show that about 40 percent of Japanese voters support no political party. The reason Japanese citizens have little trust in party politics is the electoral reform of 1994. The mixed-member majoritarian system was introduced to create a two-party system with alternation in power. Contrary to expectations, however, a dominant coalition system was the result, with the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito coalition holding power since 1999 (except for 2009-2012), while the opposition parties are fragmented. It is perceived by many citizens that the governing parties are arrogant and the opposition parties unreliable. This disappointment and deep distrust urges Japanese citizens to search for an alternative, and take an interest in Against Elections.

 Stimulated by the translated book, Japanese scholars and citizens have begun to discuss the possibility of legislature by sortition. OKAZAKI Seiki, one of the translators of Against Elections, proposed to replace the elected House of Councillors with the sorted House of Citizens. He suggests that the sorted House can exercise veto power over the decisions of the elected House (Okazaki Seiki, “Election and Sortition,” Kenpo-kenkyu (Review of Constitutional Law), No. 5, November 2019, pp. 87-96. Written in Japanese).

 A Citizen Council for Electoral Reforms (Senkyo Shimin Shingikai) proposed to use sortition in elections. One method is that an abstention rate is used to determine the rate of sorted representatives. For example, 40 percent of seats are allocated by sortition when the abstention rate is 40 percent. The other method is to give the voters a choice to vote for sortition as well as a choice of parties (A Citizen Council for Electoral Reforms, The Recommendations for Electoral and Political Reforms, 31 December 2019, pp. 70-74, written in Japanese). The former method was referred to in an article in the Asahi Simbun, one of the most prestigious newspapers in Japan, on 8 January 2020. Thus, the struggle for representatives by sortition begins in Japan as well.

* This short essay is written by OKAZAKI Seiki and Dimitri Vanoverbeke and published on the website of Political Theory Forum on 14 January 2020.
posted by 主催者 at 10:00| Comment(0) | 岡ア晴輝
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