Elections in Japan

The Japanese political process has three types of elections.

  • General elections of members of the House of Representatives (衆議院議員総選挙, Shūgi-in giin sō-senkyo) held every four years (unless the lower house is dissolved earlier).
  • Regular/Ordinary elections of members of the House of Councillors (参議院議員通常選挙, Sangi-in giin tsūjō-senkyo) held every three years to choose half of its members.[1]

Elections are supervised by Election Administration Commissions at each administrative level under the general direction of the Central Election Management Council, an extraordinary organ attached to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC). The minimum voting age in Japan's non-compulsory electoral system was reduced from twenty to eighteen years in June 2016.[3][4] Voters must satisfy a three-month residency requirement before being allowed to cast a ballot.[5]

For those seeking offices, 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.[6] Each deposit for candidacy for national election is 3 million yen (about 27 thousand dollars) for a single-seat constituency and 6 million yen (about 54 thousand dollars) for proportional representation.

National electionsEdit

Japan's postwar national legislature, the National Diet (国会, Kokkai), has two directly elected chambers, elected on independent electoral cycles:

General elections of members of the House of Representatives (衆議院議員総選挙, Shūgi-in 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 single-seat constituencies are decided by plurality, and the proportional seats are handed out in each "block" constituency to party lists proportionally (by the D'Hondt method) to their share of the vote.[7] Each voter votes twice, once for a candidate in the local constituency, and once for a party in the regional "block" constituency. In a parallel system, there is no link between votes in one tier and seat numbers in the other; but so-called dual candidacies (重複立候補, chōfuku rikkōho) of one candidate in both tiers simultaneously are allowed. If such dual candidates lose in the majoritarian tier, they still 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 (惜敗率, ratio of margin of defeat) system determines the order of candidates.

Regular/Ordinary elections of members of the House of Councillors (参議院議員通常選挙, Sangi-in giin tsūjō-senkyo) are usually held once every three years. In staggered elections, half of the House of Councillors comes up for election every three years in elections. The term is fixed, the House of Councillors cannot be dissolved. This, too, is a parallel electoral system. Dual candidacies are not allowed. As in House of Representatives elections, voters have two votes: In the majoritarian election, the vote has to be for a candidate, but in the proportional election, the vote may be for either a party list or a single candidate; in the latter case, the vote counts as both a vote for the party list (to determine proportional seat distribution), and as a preference vote within that list (to determine the order or proportional candidates within that list). The district magnitudes in the majoritarian tier vary between one and six, dependent on, but not fully proportional to the population of each prefecture. In single-member constituencies, SNTV becomes equivalent to first-past-the-post, whereas seats are usually split between different parties/alliances in multi-member constituencies (and in the proportional constituency by definition). Therefore, the single-member constituencies of the House of Councillors (参議院一人区, Sangiin ichinin-ku) are more likely to swing the election result and often receive more media and campaign attention. 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 strictly determined the ranking of candidates on party lists before 2019. Since the 2019 election, parties are allowed to prioritize individual candidates on their proportional list over voter preferences in a "special frame" (特定枠, tokutei-waku). In the 2019 election, almost all parties continued to use completely open lists; exceptions were the LDP which used the "special frame" to give secure list spots to two LDP prefectural federations affected by the introduction of combined constituencies in 2016, Reiwa Shinsengumi which used it to give secure list spots to two candidates with severe disabilities, and the minor "Labourers' Party for the liberation of labour".[9][10]

Voting in Higashiōsaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan, 2014.

The electoral cycles of the two chambers of the Diet are usually not synchronized. Even when the current constitution took effect in 1947, the first House of Councillors election was held several days apart from the 23rd House of Representatives election. Only in 1980 and 1986, general and regular election coincided on the same day because the House of Representatives was dissolved in time for the election to be scheduled together with the House of Councillors election in early summer.

Vacant district seats in both Houses are generally filled in by-elections (補欠選挙, 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 (繰り上げ当選, 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 (自由民主党, Jiyū-Minshu-tō) 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 (新自由クラブ, Shin-Jiyū-kurabu). 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 (ねじれ国会, 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 Japan Socialist Party (日本社会党, Nihon-Shakai-tō). The 2009 House of Representatives elections handed the first non-LDP victory to the Democratic Party of Japan (民主党, Minshu-tō).

According to a survey by Yomiuri Shimbun in April 2010, almost half of Japanese voters do not support any political parties due to political inefficiency.[11]

Election of the Prime MinisterEdit

Between 1885 and 1947 in the Empire of Japan, the prime minister was not elected by legisture, but responsible to, chosen and appointed by the Emperor. In practice, the Genrō (元老) usually nominated a candidate for appointment. The Imperial Diet (帝国議会, Teikoku-gikai) and its elected lower house, the House of Representatives, which were set up in 1890 according to the Imperial Constitution, had no constitutionally guaranteed role in the formation of cabinets.[12][better source needed]

Since 1947, the Prime Minister has been chosen in the "designation election of the prime minister" (内閣総理大臣指名選挙, Naikaku sōridaijin shimei senkyo) (ja) in the National Diet. It is held after a cabinet has submitted its resignation – the outgoing cabinet remains as caretaker cabinet until the Imperial inauguration ceremony of a new prime minister –; a cabinet must resign en masse under the constitution (Articles 69 and 70) 1. always on convocation of the first Diet after a general election of the House of Representatives, 2. if the post of prime minister has fallen vacant – that includes cases when the prime minister is permanently incapacitated, e.g. by illness, kidnapping or defection –, or 3. if a no-confidence vote in the House of Representatives is not answered by the dissolution of the chamber. Though both Houses of the Diet vote in two-round elections to select a prime minister, the House of Representatives has the decisive vote: If the two Houses vote for different candidates (as they did in 1948, 1989, 1998, 2007 and 2008), a procedure in the joint committee of both houses (両院協議会, Ryōin Kyōgikai) may reach a consensus; but eventually the candidate of the House of Representatives becomes that of the whole Diet and thereby prime minister-designate. The designated prime minister must still be ceremonially appointed by the Emperor in the Imperial Investiture (親任式, Shinnin-shiki) to enter office; but unlike some heads of state, the Emperor has no reserve power to appoint anyone other than the person elected by the Diet.

In 2001, LDP president and Prime Minister Junichirō Koizumi instituted an advisory council to investigate the possibility of introducing direct popular election of the prime minister in a constitutional revision.[13]

Upcoming national electionsEdit

2022 House of Councillors by-electionEdit

On April 24, a by-election will be held in Ishikawa to the 2019–25 class of the House of Councillors. The seat had been vacated in December 2021 by Shūji Yamada (LDP) for his (unsuccessful) candidacy in the gubernatorial election in March. There are also two vacant House of Councillors seats in Kanagawa (one from each class), but they will be filled in a single, combined regular and by-election in Summer.

2022 House of Councillors regular electionEdit

The 2022 electoral map sees the LDP looking to defend or expand on the slightly stronger class of its House of Councillors caucus with 57 (as of February 2022) of its 110 seats up, including defected ex-Democrats in Miyagi and Fukushima. The centre-left opposition will seek to defend single-member seats in "purple" prefectures like Nagano or Yamanashi while trying to make inroads into "red" territory as it had done to some degree with the joint centre-left strategy in the 2019 election when it recovered somewhat from the 2013 wipe-out in single-member districts and gained some seats even in conservative-leaning prefectures (Akita, Yamagata, Ehime). However, depending on the outcome of the April by-election and other party changes until then, the ruling parties would have to lose at least 14 seats overall to lose their majority, even more to give unambiguous control to the opposition.

Latest resultsEdit

2021 House of Representatives general electionEdit

The LDP defended its majority, and the LDP-Kōmeitō coalition government continues under prime minister Fumio Kishida; but the coalition no longer holds a two-thirds majority as it had previously since 2012, i.e. it now needs to retain its majority in the House of Councillors in order to control a legislative majority of its own in parliament. The main opposition CDP picked up some majoritarian seats in a joint centre-left nomination strategy, but lost substantially in the proportional tier where it had held almost the same number of seats as the LDP before the election due to the 2020 party realignments. The centre-right opposition Ishin no Kai surged, winning 15 of 19 FPTP seats in Osaka and gaining seats in ten of eleven proportional districts countrywide.

  • Proportional tier (11 constituencies, 176 seats), turnout 55.92%
    • LDP 59 PR-only + 251 dual candidates, 34.7% of votes, 72 seats (41% of seats)
    • CDP 26+213 candidates, 20.0%, 39 seats (22%)
    • Ishin 2+94 candidates, 14.0%, 25 seats (14%)
    • Komeito 44+0 candidates, 12.4%, 23 seats (13%)
    • JCP 25+15 candidates, 7.2%, 9 seats (5%)
    • DPFP 6+21 candidates, 4.5%, 5 seats (3%)
    • Reiwa Shinsengumi 9+12 candidates, 3.9%, 3 seats (2%)
    • 6 other parties (aggregate) 40 candidates, 3.4%, no seats
  • Majoritarian tier (289 constituencies, 289 seats), turnout 55.93%
    • Governing parties (LDP+Komeito): 286 candidates (cross-endorsed practically countrywide), 49.6 % of votes, 196 seats (67.8% of seats)
    • Centre-left opposition (CDP+DPFP+JCP+SDP+ReiShin): 361 candidates (joint in about two-thirds of constituencies, competing against each other in the rest), 37.7 %, 65 seats (22.5%)
    • Ishin: 94 candidates, 8.4%, 16 seats (5.5%)
    • Independents: 80 candidates (including several endorsed by the LDP) 3.9 %, 12 seats (4.2%, including two winners retroactively nominated by the LDP)
    • Others (aggregate) 36 candidates, 0.4 %, no seats

2021 House of Councillors by-electionsEdit

One week before the 2021 House of Representatives general election, by-elections to the House of Councillors were held in Yamaguchi and Shizuoka. Former proportional district member Tsuneo Kitamura (LDP – Kōmeitō) easily held conservative stronghold Yamaguchi for the ruling coalition against candidates from JCP and [anti-]NHK party, former prefectural assembly member Shinnosuke Yamazaki (independent – CDP, DPFP) narrowly won Shizuoka for the centre-left opposition against candidates from LDP and JCP.[14][15]

2021 by- & repeat elections to both housesEdit

The centre-left opposition won all three April 2021 elections to the Diet:[16]

  • In the repeat election to the House of Councillors in Hiroshima following the invalidation of Anri Kawai's 2019 election, opposition-supported announcer Haruko Miyaguchi (I/O – CDP, DPFP, SDP) defeated former METI bureaucrat Hidenori Nishita (LDP – Kōmeitō).[17]
  • In the Nagano by-election to the House of Councillors, Jirō Hata (CDP – JCP, DPFP, SDP) beat former H.R. member Yutaka Komatsu (LDP – Kōmeitō) to fill his late brother's seat.[18]
  • In the Hokkaidō 2 by-election to the House of Representatives caused by the resignation of Takamori Yoshikawa (LDP) for health reasons during the Akita Foods scandal, former member Kenkō Matsuki (CDP – DPFP, SDP) won safely with 43,7 % of the vote against a field of several independent/third-pillar candidates, the ruling parties did not contest the race directly and endorsed no candidate.[19]

2020 House of Representatives by-electionEdit

The 26 April by-election in Shizuoka's 4th district was won by former prefectural assemblyman Yōichi Fukazawa (LDP – Kōmeitō). With 61% of the vote, he easily beat opposition candidate Ken Tanaka (I – CDP, DPFP, JCP, SDP; 35%), a former prefectural assembly member from Tokyo, and two other candidates to fill the seat vacated by Yoshio Mochizuki's death in December.[20]

2019 House of Councillors by-electionEdit

The 27 October by-election in Saitama to fill the vacancy created by Motohiro Ōno's (DPFP) resignation was won by previous governor and former DPJ House of Representatives member Kiyoshi Ueda who had been an independent since his move from national to prefectural politics in 2003. The only other candidate was Takashi Tachibana for the anti-NHK party.[21][22]

2019 House of Councillors regular electionEdit

Results[23] summary:

  • Proportional tier (1 nationwide constituency, 50 seats), turnout 48.79%
    • LDP 33 candidates, 35.4% of votes, 19 seats (38% of seats)
    • CDP 22 candidates, 15.8%, 8 seats (16%)
    • Komeito 17 candidates, 13.1%, 7 seats (14%)
    • Ishin 14 candidates, 9.8%, 5 seats (10%)
    • JCP 26 candidates, 9.0%, 4 seats (8%)
    • DPFP 14 candidates, 7.0%, 3 seats (6%)
    • Reiwa Shinsengumi 9 candidates, 4.6%, 2 seats (4%) and gained legal status as national-level political party (>2% of votes)
    • SDP 4 candidates, 2.1%, 1 seat (2%)
    • N-Koku 4 candidates, 1.97%, 1 seat (2%)
    • 4 other parties (aggregate) 12 candidates, 1.4%, no seats
  • Majoritarian tier (45 constituencies, 74 seats), turnout 48.80%
    • Governing parties (LDP+Komeito): 56 candidates, 47.5 % of votes, 45 seats (60.8% of seats)
    • Centre-left opposition (CDP+DPFP+JCP+SDP): 51 candidates, 30.0 %, 15 seats (20.3%)
    • Independents: 31 candidates (many of them jointly supported by the centre-left alliance in single-member constituencies) 10.6 %, 9 seats (12.2%, all of them centre-left opposition)
    • Ishin: 8 candidates, 7.3%, 5 seats (6.8%)
    • N-Koku: 37 candidates, 3.0%, no seats, but gained legal party status
    • Others (aggregate: Reiwa Shinsengumi & 5 other parties) 32 candidates, 1.6 %, no seats

List of House of Representatives general electionsEdit

19th centuryEdit

Election Date Elected prime minister
(during term)
Turnout Seats Date of
dissolution (D) /
expiration of term (E)
Majority party Seats Share Monarch
Imperial Diet (1890-1947); upper house: House of Peers Emperor

1890 1 July 1890 Yamagata Aritomo 93.91% 300 450,872 Constitutional Liberal 130 43.33%
(Matsukata Masayoshi)
1892 15 February 1892 Matsukata Masayoshi 91.59% (D) 25 December 1891 434,594 094 31.33%
(Itō Hirobumi)
Mar. 1894 1 March 1894 Itō Hirobumi 88.76% (D) 30 December 1893 440,113 120 40.00%
Sep. 1894 1 September 1894 Itō Hirobumi 84.84% (D) 2 June 1894 460,483 107 35.66%
(Matsukata Masayoshi)
(Itō Hirobumi)
Mar. 1898 15 March 1898 Itō Hirobumi 87.50% (D) 25 December 1897 452,637 105 35.00%
(Ōkuma Shigenobu)
Aug. 1898 10 August 1898 Ōkuma Shigenobu 79.91% (D) 10 June 1898 502,292 Kensei Hontō 124 41.33%
(Yamagata Aritomo)
(Itō Hirobumi)
(Katsura Tarō)
Election Date Elected prime minister
(during term)
Turnout Seats Date of dissolution (D) /
expiration of term (E)
Majority party Seats Share Monarch

20th centuryEdit

Election Date Elected prime minister
(during term)
Turnout Seats Date of
dissolution (D) /
expiration of term (E)
Majority party Seats Share Monarch
1902 10 August 1902 Katsura Tarō 88.39% 376 (E) 9 August 1902 982,868 Rikken Seiyūkai 191 50.79% Emperor

1903 1 March 1903 86.17% (D) 28 December 1902 958,322 175 46.54%
1904 1 March 1904 Katsura Tarō 86.06% 379 (D) 11 December 1903 762,445 133 35.09%
(Saionji Kinmochi)
1908 15 May 1908 Saionji Kinmochi 85.29% (E) 27 March 1908 1,590,045 187 49.34%
(Katsura Tarō)
(Saionji Kinmochi)
1912 15 May 1912 Saionji Kinmochi 89.58% 381 (E) 14 May 1912 1,506,143 209 54.85%
(Katsura Tarō)
(Yamamoto Gonnohyōe)
(Ōkuma Shigenobu)
1915 25 March 1915 Ōkuma Shigenobu 92.13% (D) 25 December 1914 1,546,411 Rikken Dōshikai 153 40.15% Emperor

(Terauchi Masatake)
1917 20 April 1917 Terauchi Masatake 91.92% (D) 25 January 1917 1,422,126 Rikken Seiyūkai 165 43.30%
(Hara Takashi)
1920 10 May 1920 Hara Takashi 86.73% 464 (D) 26 February 1920 3,069,148 278 59.91%
(Takahashi Korekiyo)
(Katō Tomosaburō)
(Yamamoto Gonnohyōe)
(Kiyoura Keigo)
1924 10 May 1924 Katō Takaaki 91.18% (D) 31 January 1924 3,288,405 Kenseikai 151 32.54%
(Wakatsuki Reijirō)
(Tanaka Giichi)
1928 20 February 1928 Tanaka Giichi 80.36% 466 (D) 21 January 1928 12,408,678 Rikken Seiyūkai 218 46.78% Emperor

(Hamaguchi Osachi)
1930 20 February 1930 Hamaguchi Osachi 83.34% (D) 21 January 1930 12,812,895 Rikken Minseitō 273 58.58%
(Wakatsuki Reijirō)
(Inukai Tsuyoshi)
1932 20 February 1932 Inukai Tsuyoshi 81.68% (D) 21 January 1932 13,237,841 Rikken Seiyukai 301 64.59%
(Saitō Makoto)
(Keisuke Okada)
1936 20 February 1936 Kōki Hirota 78.65% (D) 21 January 1936 14,479,553 Rikken Minseitō 205 43.99%
(Senjūrō Hayashi)
1937 30 April 1937 Senjūrō Hayashi 73.31% (D) 31 March 1937 14,618,298 179 38.41%
(Fumimaro Konoe)
(Hiranuma Kiichirō)
(Nobuyuki Abe)
(Mitsumasa Yonai)
(Fumimaro Konoe)
(Fumimaro Konoe)
(Hideki Tojo)
1942 30 April 1942 Hideki Tojo 83.16% (E) 29 April 1942 14,594,287 Imperial Rule Assistance Association 381 81.75%
(Kuniaki Koiso)
(Kantarō Suzuki)
(Kantarō Suzuki)
(Prince Naruhiko Higashikuni)
(Kijūrō Shidehara)
1946 10 April 1946 Shigeru Yoshida 72.08% (D) 18 December 1945 36,878,420 Liberal 141 30.25%
1947 25 April 1947 Tetsu Katayama 67.95% (D) 31 March 1947 40,907,493 Socialist 143 30.68%
(Hitoshi Ashida)
(Shigeru Yoshida)
National Diet (1947-present); upper house: House of Councillors
1949 23 January 1949 Shigeru Yoshida 74.04% 466 (D) 23 December 1948 42,105,300 Democratic Liberal 264 56.65%
(Shigeru Yoshida)
1952 1 October 1952 Shigeru Yoshida 76.43% (D) 28 August 1952 46,772,584 Liberal 240 51.50%
1953 19 April 1953 Shigeru Yoshida 74.22% (D) 14 March 1953 47,090,167 Liberal
Yoshida faction
199 42.70%
(Ichirō Hatoyama)
1955 27 February 1955 Ichirō Hatoyama 75.84% 467 (D) 24 January 1955 49,235,375 Democratic 185 39.61%
(Ichirō Hatoyama)
(Tanzan Ishibashi)
(Nobusuke Kishi)
1958 22 May 1958 Nobusuke Kishi 76.99% (D) 25 April 1958 52,013,529 Liberal Democratic 287 61.45%
(Hayato Ikeda)
1960 20 November 1960 Hayato Ikeda 73.51% (D) 24 October 1960 54,312,993 296 63.38%
1963 21 November 1963 Hayato Ikeda 71.14% (D) 23 October 1963 58,281,678 283 60.59%
(Eisaku Satō)
1967 29 January 1967 Eisaku Satō 73.99% 486 (D) 27 December 1966 62,992,796 277 56.99%
1969 27 December 1969 Eisaku Satō 68.51% (D) 2 December 1969 69,260,424 288 59.25%
(Kakuei Tanaka)
1972 10 December 1972 Kakuei Tanaka 71.76% 491 (D) 13 November 1972 73,769,636 271 55.19%
(Takeo Miki)
1976 5 December 1976 Takeo Fukuda 73.45% 511 (E) 9 December 1976 77,926,588 249 48.72%
(Masayoshi Ōhira)
1979 7 October 1979 Masayoshi Ōhira 68.01% (D) 7 September 1979 80,169,924 248 48.53%
1980 22 June 1980 Zenkō Suzuki 74.57% (D) 19 May 1980 80,925,034 284 55.57%
(Yasuhiro Nakasone)
1983 18 December 1983 Yasuhiro Nakasone 67.94% (D) 28 November 1983 84,252,608 Liberal Democratic
(LDP-NLC coalition)
250 48.92%
1986 2 June 1986 Yasuhiro Nakasone 71.40% 512 (D) 2 June 1986 86,426,845 Liberal Democratic 300 58.59%
(Noboru Takeshita)
(Sōsuke Uno)
(Toshiki Kaifu)
1990 18 February 1990 Toshiki Kaifu 73.31% (D) 24 January 1990 90,322,908 275 53.71% Emperor


(Kiichi Miyazawa)
1993 18 July 1993 Morihiro Hosokawa 67.26% 511 (D) 18 June 1993 94,477,816 Liberal Democratic
(JNP-JRPJSP-KomeitoDSP-NPS-SDF coalition:
JRPKomeitoJNP-DSP-Liberal Reform League coalition:
LDP-JSP-NPS coalition
since 1994)
223 43.63%
(Tsutomu Hata)
(Tomiichi Murayama)
(Ryūtarō Hashimoto)
1996 20 October 1996 Ryūtarō Hashimoto 59.65% 500 (D) 27 September 1996 97,680,719 Liberal Democratic
(LDP-JSP/SDP-NPS coalition:
LDP-Liberal coalition:
LDP-Komeito-Liberal/NCP coalition:
LDP-Komeito-NCP coalition:
239 47.80%
(Keizō Obuchi)
(Yoshirō Mori)
2000 25 June 2000 Yoshirō Mori 62.49% 480 (D) 2 June 2000 100,492,328 Liberal Democratic
(LDP-Komeito-NCP coalition)
233 48.54%
(Junichiro Koizumi)
Election Date Elected prime minister
(during term)
Turnout Seats Date of
dissolution (D) /
expiration of term (E)
Majority party Seats Share Monarch

21st centuryEdit

Election Date Elected prime minister
(during term)
Turnout Seats Date of
dissolution (D) /
expiration of term (E)
Majority party Seats Share Monarch
2003 9 November 2003 Junichiro Koizumi 59.86% 480 (D) 10 October 2003 102,306,684 Liberal Democratic
(LDP-Komeito coalition)
237 49.37% Emperor


2005 11 September 2005 Junichiro Koizumi 67.51% (D) 8 August 2005 103,067,966 296 61.66%
(Shinzo Abe)
(Yasuo Fukuda)
(Tarō Asō)
2009 30 August 2009 Yukio Hatoyama 69.28% (D) 21 July 2009 104,057,361 Democratic
(DPJ-PNP-SDP coalition:
DPJ-PNP coalition:
308 64.16%
(Naoto Kan)
(Yoshihiko Noda)
2012 16 December 2012 Shinzo Abe 59.32% (D) 16 November 2012 103,959,866 Liberal Democratic
(LDP-Komeito coalition)
294 61.25%
2014 14 December 2014 52.66% 475 (D) 21 November 2014 104,067,104 291 61.26%
2017 22 October 2017 Shinzo Abe 53.68% 465 (D) 28 September 2017 106,091,229 284 61.08%
(Yoshihide Suga)
(Fumio Kishida)
2021 31 October 2021 Fumio Kishida 55.93% (D) 14 October 2021 105,622,758 261 56.12% Emperor


Election Date Elected prime minister
(during term)
Turnout Seats Date of
dissolution (D) /
expiration of term (E)
Majority party Seats Share Monarch

List of House of Councillors regular electionsEdit

20th centuryEdit

21st centuryEdit


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.[24]

Still, according to the 6 October 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".[citation needed]

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.[25]

In 2016, a panel of experts proposed to introduce the [John Quincy] Adams apportionment method (method of smallest divisors) for apportioning House of Representatives seats to prefectures. The reform is planned to be implemented after the 2020 census figures are available and not expected to take effect before 2022.[26] In the meantime, another redistricting and apportionment passed in 2017 is designed to keep the maximum malapportionment ratio in the House of Representatives below 2. In the FPTP tier, it changes 97 districts and cuts six without adding any; in the proportional tier, four "blocks" lose a seat each; the total number of seats in the lower house is cut to 465, 289 majoritarian seats and 176 proportional seats.[27]

The malapportionment in the 2010[28] and 2013[29] regular House of Councillors elections was ruled unconstitutional (or "in an unconstitutional state") by the Supreme Court, and has been reduced by a 2015 reapportionment below 3 (at least in government statistics from census data which is regular and standardized but lags behind resident registration statistics and the actual number of eligible voters; using the latter, the maximum malapportionment in the 2016 election remained slightly above 3[30][31]).

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 2016 released by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications – it takes into account the lowering of the voting age and the district reforms to both houses of the Diet in effect since the 2014 and 2016 elections, but not the 2017 redistricting/reapportionment effective from the next House of Representatives election.

Electoral districts with the highest and lowest voting weight for the National Diet as of 2016[32]
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
District Registered voters
per member elected
1 Tokyo 1 514,974 Fukushima 4 233,491 Saitama 1,015,543 Fukui 328,772 1
2 Hokkaidō 1 505,510 Miyagi 5 234,373 Niigata 978,686 Saga 346,727 2
3 Tokyo 3 504,929 Kagoshima 5 240,056 Miyagi 975,466 Yamanashi 353,402 3
4 Tokyo 5 498,903 Tottori 1 240,874 Kanagawa 951,735 Kagawa 417,082 4
5 Hyōgo 6 492,173 Nagasaki 3 242,165 Tokyo 937,470 Wakayama 419,011 5
6 Tokyo 6 490,674 Tottori 2 242,194 Osaka 915,000 Akita 448,236 6
7 Tokyo 19 488,494 Nagasaki 4 242,303 Nagano 885,638 Toyama 452,822 7
8 Tokyo 22 486,965 Aomori 3 244,007 Chiba 871,110 Miyazaki 466,829 8
9 Saitama 3 483,014 Mie 4 244,825 Gifu 850,190 Yamagata 475,419 9
10 Tokyo 23 481,206 Iwate 3 246,272 Tochigi 827,368 Ishikawa 481,027 10

Prefectural and local electionsEdit

Unified local elections (統一地方選挙 tōitsu chihō senkyo) are held once every four years. Prefectural assemblies and governors, as well as mayors and assemblies in municipalities, are elected for four-year terms. In April 1947, all local elections in the 46 prefectures (excluding Okinawa, then under US military rule) and all their municipalities were held at the same time in "unified local elections". Since then, some gubernatorial and mayoral elections, and most assembly elections, have stayed on this original four-year cycle. Most governors and mayors are now elected on different schedules as the four-year cycle "resets" upon the resignation, death or removal of a sitting governor or mayor. Some assembly election cycles have also shifted due to assembly dissolutions or mergers of municipalities. The most recent were the 2019 Japanese unified local elections.

Types of Japanese local electionsEdit

Administrative divisions of Japan; 47 prefectures, 792 cities, 743 towns, 183 villages (not inducing the six villages in the Kuril Islands dispute area) and 23 special wards of Tokyo.

  • Governor and mayor elections
    • Prefectural governor elections (都道府県知事選挙 to-dō-fu-ken chiji senkyo)
    • Municipal mayor elections (市町村長選挙 shi-chō-son chō senkyo)
    • Special ward mayor elections (特別区長選挙 tokubetsu-ku chō senkyo)
  • Prefectural and municipal assembly elections
    • Prefectural assembly elections (都道府県議会議員選挙 to-dō-fu-ken gikaigiin senkyo)
    • Municipal assembly elections (市町村議会議員選挙 shi-chō-son gikaigiin senkyo)
    • Special ward assembly elections (特別区議会議員選挙 tokubetsu-ku gikaigiin senkyo)

Unified electionsEdit

As of 2015, the major contests in the unified local elections are as follows:

Prefecture Governor Assembly Designated city races
Hokkaido Sapporo mayor
Sapporo assembly
Saitama Saitama assembly
Chiba Chiba assembly
Kanagawa Yokohama assembly
Kawasaki assembly
Sagamihara mayor
Sagamihara assembly
Niigata Niigata assembly
Shizuoka Shizuoka mayor
Hamamatsu mayor
Hamamatsu assembly
Aichi Nagoya assembly
Kyoto Kyoto assembly
Osaka Osaka assembly
Sakai assembly
Hyogo Kobe assembly
Okayama Okayama assembly
Hiroshima Hiroshima mayor
Hiroshima assembly
Fukuoka Fukuoka assembly
Kumamoto Kumamoto assembly

Although Tokyo's metropolitan governor and assembly elections are currently held on separate schedules, 21 of the 23 special wards of Tokyo follow the unified election schedule for their assembly elections, the only exceptions being Katsushika and Adachi. The majority of Tokyo's special wards follow separate cycles for their mayoral elections. Tokyo elected its governor as part of the unified elections until 2011, but was forced to hold a 2012 election and 2014 election due to the resignations of Shintaro Ishihara and Naoki Inose.

Iwate Prefecture, Miyagi Prefecture and Fukushima Prefecture are no longer on the unified election cycle due to the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, which delayed their elections.

List of unified local elections

Other major local election cyclesEdit

  • Since 1971, Ibaraki Prefecture has held its prefectural assembly elections in the December preceding the unified election, making this election a regular leading indicator of the nationwide elections in the following April. The 2014 Ibaraki election was held on the same day as the 2014 Japanese general election.
  • Approximately 193 new municipalities were created in a wave of "Heisei mergers" effective in April 2005. Their first municipal elections were held around this time, and coincided with the Chiba and Akita gubernatorial elections and the Nagoya mayoral election, creating a second major local election cycle sometimes referred to as the "mini unified local elections."
  • Okinawa Prefecture and most of its local governments continue to follow a four-year cycle that began following repatriation to Japan in June 1972, with several exceptions (including the city of Naha). Okinawa elections generally occur in the year following the unified elections; the next is scheduled for June 2016.

Ballots, voting machines and early votingEdit

A used Japanese ballot paper from the 1952 House of Representatives election, in this case spoilt by writing "There is no suitable person" (該当者なし, Gaitō-sha Nashi). The only thing that is literally "on the ballot" in Japan before a voter votes is an empty box titled "candidate name" (候補者氏名, Kōho-sha Shimei) and usually a text next to it with general notes such as "Please don't write anything other than the name of an actual candidate." or "Please don't write outside the box."
A sample ballot paper for a House of Representatives election according to a 1945 Home Ministry ordinance

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).[33]

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, Anbun-hyō) are rounded to the third decimal.[34][35] For example, if "Yamada A" and "Yamada B" both stood in an election and there were 1500 unambiguous votes: 1000 for "Yamada A" and 500 for "Yamada B"; five ambiguous votes for "Yamada" would then count for Yamada A as 5×1000/1500=3.333 votes, and for Yamada B as 5×500/1500=1.667 votes. The official overall result would then be: Yamada A 1003.333 votes, Yamada B 501.667 votes.

In 2002, passage of an electronic voting law[36] allowed for the introduction of electronic voting machines in local elections.[37] The first machine vote took place in Niimi, Okayama in June 2002.[38] In 2003, a system for early voting (期日前投票制度, Kijitsu-mae tōhyō seido) was introduced.[39] In the 2017 general/House of Representatives election, a record number of more than 21 million Japanese voted early;[40] at the same time overall turnout was low (the second lowest in history), so in 2017, roughly 38 % of all actual voters had voted early. For regular/House of Councillors elections, the 2019 election set a new all-time high with more than 17 million early voters,[41] corresponding to roughly a third of actual voters in 2019 as overall turnout hit the second lowest value in history.


In Japan, walkovers in elections are called Mutōhyō tōsen (無投票当選), "[being] elected without vote". And there is literally no vote held in a walkover in Japan, no way to vote "no" or abstain explicitly: If there are only as many candidates in an election as there are seats/offices at the start of the legal election period ("official announcement": kōji (公示) in national general and regular elections; kokuji (告示) in prefectural and municipal elections as well as national by-elections), they are declared the winners. But the otherwise applicable moratorium period after regular elections on recall attempts does not apply after a walkover. (Recalls are a two-/three-step procedure: first, supporters of a recall must collect a sufficient number of signatures; if they do, a referendum is held on whether or not to recall the incumbent; only if that is accepted by a majority, a fresh election is scheduled.) Article 100 of the Public Offices Election Law deals with walkovers,[42] there are additional walkover provisions for subnational elections in the Local Autonomy Law.

Walkovers have become widespread in prefectural and municipal elections in recent years; in the 2019 unified local elections, out of 2277 seats up in 945 electoral districts for 41 prefectural assemblies, a record 612 seats are won by walkovers in a total of 371 districts or 39% of all electoral districts. In one extreme case, a rural single-member electoral district to the Shimane prefectural assembly, there hasn't been a contested election in 31 years (the whole Heisei period).[43][44]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "The Government of Modern Japan: Elections | Asia for Educators | Columbia University". afe.easia.columbia.edu. Retrieved 9 August 2021.
  2. ^ a b "総務省|選挙の種類". 総務省 (in Japanese). Retrieved 9 August 2021.
  3. ^ "Diet enacts law lowering voting age to 18 from 20". The Japan Times.
  4. ^ "Public Offices Election Act amended to reduce the voting age to 18 | Liberal Democratic Party of Japan". www.jimin.jp. Retrieved 9 August 2021.
  5. ^ "Japan:Public Offices Election Act (2016) —". aceproject.org. Retrieved 9 August 2021.
  6. ^ "Japan:Public Offices Election Act (2016) —". aceproject.org. Retrieved 9 August 2021.
  7. ^ "公職選挙法 | e-Gov法令検索". elaws.e-gov.go.jp. Retrieved 9 August 2021.
  8. ^ "Diet passes controversial bill adding seats to Japan's Upper House for first time in nearly half a century". The Japan Times. 18 July 2018. Retrieved 27 April 2019.
  9. ^ Jiji Press, 4 July 2019: 特定枠、れいわ・労働も利用【19参院選】, retrieved 18 September 2019.
  10. ^ Mainichi Shimbun, 5 July 2019: 2019参院選 公示 特定枠に5候補者 比例に導入、優先的に当選, retrieved 18 September 2019.
  11. ^ Nishikawa, Yoko (4 April 2010). "Nearly half of Japan's voters don't support any party". Reuters. Retrieved 5 April 2010.
  12. ^ The Ally From The Far East - Japan in World War 1. Retrieved 22 October 2017.
  13. ^ Kantei: Advisory Council to Consider the Direct Election of the Prime Minister
  14. ^ Asahi Shimbun Asia & Japan Watch, October 25, 2021: Opposition rallies to upset LDP in Shizuoka by-election, retrieved March 24, 2022.
  15. ^ NHK Senkyo Web: H.C. by-election results Yamaguchi, Shizuoka, retrieved March 24, 2022.
  16. ^ Asahi Shimbun Asia & Japan Watch, April 25, 2021: LDP suffers setback with losses in 2 Diet elections, retrieved April 25, 2021.
  17. ^ NHK senkyo web: H.C. Hiroshima repeat election, retrieved April 25, 2021.
  18. ^ NHK senkyo web: H.C. Nagano by-election, retrieved April 25, 2021.
  19. ^ NHK senkyo web: H.R. Hokkaidō 2 by-election, retrieved April 25, 2021.
  20. ^ NHK選挙Web, 27 April 2020: 衆院補選 静岡4区 (House of Rep.s by-election Shizuoka district 4), retrieved 28 May 2020.
  21. ^ Asahi Shimbun, 27 October 2019: 参院埼玉補選、無所属で前知事の上田清司氏が初当選, retrieved 28 October 2019
  22. ^ Tōkyō Shimbun, 28 October 2019: 参院埼玉補選 上田氏当選 投票率 低調20・81%, retrieved 28 October 2019
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  24. ^ Batto, NF., Huang, C., Tan, AC. and Cox, G. (Ed.) (2016) Batto, NF., Huang, C., Tan, AC. and Cox, G. (Ed.) (2016) Mixed-Member Electoral Systems in Constitutional Context: Taiwan, Japan and Beyond. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
  25. ^ Jiji Tsūshin, 23 March 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[permanent dead link]
  26. ^ nikkei.com, 15 March 2017: 衆院定数10減決まる 選挙制度改革まとめ
  27. ^ Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications: 衆議院小選挙区の区割りの改定等について ("On the changes to House of Representatives single-member districts" [but covers the changes to proportional districts, too]) (in Japanese)
  28. ^ Asahi Shimbun, Asia & Japan Watch, 18 October 2012: Japan's 2 Diet chambers both ruled all but 'unconstitutional' Archived 22 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  29. ^ The Japan Times, 26 November 2014: Supreme Court assails vote disparity in 2013 election but doesn’t nullify results
  30. ^ Mainichi Shimbun, 12 July 2016: 2016参院選:「1票の格差」一斉提訴 最大3.08倍、無効訴え 14高裁・支部
  31. ^ Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, 27 December 2019: Voter statistics as of September 2, 2016 [covers districts of both houses of the National Diet], p.16 (in Japanese)
  32. ^ Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, 27 December 2016: Voter statistics as of September 2, 2016, p. 8 (in Japanese)
  33. ^ Kamiya, Setsuko, "Some election campaign rules outdated, quirky", Japan Times, 11 December 2012, p. 3
  34. ^ "按分票とはなんですか?" (in Japanese). [[Nerima, Tokyo|]] city electoral commission. Retrieved 17 May 2021.
  35. ^ "按分票". Asahi Shimbun Chiezō (知恵蔵, (ja)) (in Japanese). kotobank.jp (Voyage Marketing). Retrieved 17 May 2021.
  36. ^ "地方公共団体の議会の議員及び長の選挙に係る電磁的記録式投票機を用いて行う投票方法等の特例に関する法律". Archived from the original on 1 March 2010. Retrieved 26 September 2009.
  37. ^ MIC: 電磁的記録式投票制度について
  38. ^ Kōbe Shimbun, 28 June 2002: 全国初の電子投票ルポ 岡山・新見市
  39. ^ MIC: 期日前投票制度
  40. ^ Nihon Keizai Shimbun, 22 October 2017: 期日前投票、2137万人で過去最多, retrieved 9 October 2020.
  41. ^ Nihon Keizai Shimbun, 21 July 2019: 期日前投票は1706万人で過去最多, retrieved 9 October 2020.
  42. ^ kōshoku-senkyo-hō in the MIC e-gov database of legal texts
  43. ^ NHK News, 29 March 2019: 41道府県議選 無投票当選者が過去最多 Archived 29 March 2019 at the Wayback Machine ("41 prefectural assembly elections: number of walkovers at all-time high"), retrieved 30 March 2019.
  44. ^ The Japan Times editorial, 22 March 2019: Low turnout, poor competition mar local elections

External linksEdit