A Japanese pro baseball game in 1959 produced a famous quote that secured a place in the history books.

During a game between the Daimai Orions and the Nishitetsu Baseball Club, two now-defunct teams, Nishitetsu manager Osamu Mihara protested the umpire’s decision and said, “Show me the rulebook.”

“I am the rulebook,” quipped Nobuaki Nidegawa, the umpire, in reply.

The fact is that Nidegawa did not have the rulebook at hand then, and could not show it if he wanted to do so.

In an article about the incident carried by The Asahi Shimbun at a later date, Nidegawa was quoted as saying, “I searched my pocket, where (the rulebook) was supposed to be, but didn’t find it. I thought, ‘Damn!’ and I uttered that phrase on the spur of the moment.”

The episode as told by Nidegawa has an air of humor to it.

Somewhere in the Japanese political community, there seems to be a group of people who would dare say, “We are the rulebook.”

But there is absolutely no humorous element here.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party has railroaded a bill to revise the Public Offices Election Law through the Upper House. The bill is designed to increase the number of the Upper House seats by six in a major electoral reform that is not backed by any rationale.

The system to elect the chamber used to be based on prefectural electoral districts. Three years ago, two pairs of prefectural districts--the Shimane and Tottori districts and the Tokushima and Kochi district--were merged into one each as a step to reduce the disparity in vote values.

To rescue their Upper House colleagues who will be forced out of the prefectural districts, LDP lawmakers have drafted the bill to increase the number of the chamber’s seats and introduce a “special priority category” for each party’s list of candidates for proportional representation seats. The bill is now on track to become law.

The Public Offices Election Law stipulates that electoral system has to be subjected to a fundamental review by the Upper House poll next year. The LDP is apparently pretending to be unaware of this rule, which was created by the Diet.

Instead of pursuing any fundamental overhaul of the system, the LDP appears to be interested only in a cynical manipulation of it for its own political interests.

This will be the first increase in the number of the Upper House seats, except for one that occurred when Okinawa was returned to Japan in 1972, creating a new prefectural constituency.

I would be thrilled to hear the party make a convincing case that the change represents enhancement and not bloating. Let me challenge it to do so.

The Asahi Shimbun, July 13

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.