Gerald L. Curtis :: The new election system
that Japan adopted in 1994 provides for a lower house of 500 members.
Three hundred of them, 300 of the 500 lower house members, are elected
in single-member districts, just like members of the House of Representatives
in the United States, or just like members of the House of Commons in
Great Britain. So that voters go to the polls and they cast a vote, they
write the name of a candidate who's running in that district. And the
candidate who gets the plurality — that is the most votes of all
the candidates running in that district — is the only one elected
to the Diet in that district. So there are 300 lower house members elected
in 300 districts.
But there are also 200 lower house members who are elected
in proportional representation districts. And for purposes of this proportional
representation part of the election, the country is divided into eleven
So a voter who goes to the polls when a lower house election is called
in Japan has two ballots. On one he writes the name of a candidate in
his single-member district, and the candidate who gets the most votes
in that district is elected. And on the second ballot, he writes the
name of a political party that is running in his regional "proportional
representation" district. And then the seats are given to those
parties on the basis of their share of the vote. So if the LDP [Liberal
Democratic Party] wins 30 percent of the vote, it will get 30 percent
of that district's proportional representation seats.
So, this new system combines both the "first-past-the-post" single-member
district system that we're familiar with in the United States or in Great
Britain and the proportional representation system that's popular in
continental western European countries.