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Poli Sci 2300- Japan

Political Science
Course Code
POLI 2300X
Peter Arthur

of 4
Friday, October 15, 2010
Political Organization
Political System
Parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy
Emperor is merely a symbol of national unity
Regime history:
Current constitution promulgated in 1946 and in effect since 1947
Administrative structure:
Unitary state
47 units of intermediate-level sub-national government (prefectures)
1790 lower-level units designated as city, town or village
PM selected by legislature
Cabinet appointed by the PM
Upper House (House of Councilors) has 242 members
Half elected every 3 years
146 elected from multiple-seat prefecture-wide districts
96 elected nationally by a party list proportional representation method
Lower House (House of Representatives)
480 members elected for 4-year terms
300 members elected from single-seat constituencies
180 elected from party list proportional representation from eleven regional
electoral districts
Supreme Court has 15 judges appointed by the cabinet
Chief Justice nominated by cabinet appointed by the Emperor
Serve until 70 years old, subject to popular review
Party System
One party dominant (Liberal Democratic Party)
More competitive since 1990’s
Major parties:
oDemocratic Party of Japan
oClean Government Party
oSocial Democratic Party
oJapan Communist Party
McCormicks Observation:
Britain is pluralistic; Japan is paternalistic, elitist and factional
British PMs lead and become dominating figures in politics, Japanese PMs tend to
be party functionaries; don’t stay in office long
Britain dominated by two parties; Japan by one party
In Britain, political corruption is rare; it is surprisingly common in Japan
oFactionalism is politics, members of same political party run against each
oBureaucracy too powerful and elitist and has close ties with big business
Patron-client democracy!
For most of its history, Japan didn’t have a written constitution
In modern Japan, the scenario changed:
oMeiji Constitution
Japanese Monarchy - SHELTERED
Oldest surviving monarchy in the world
Emperor is the symbol of the state
Emperor Akihito holds the position since 1989
He is modern than his father Hirohoto
Japanese Royal Family is sheltered from the public view
Japanese monarchy is tradition bound
Legislature: The Diet
National assembly called Diet
Has typical lawmaking powers of legislature – powers over budget, vote of
confidence, question time for cabinet members
Two chambers: House of Councilors
House of Representatives
Prime Minister and Cabinet
PM, chief executive of the government, elected by Diet
Usually the leader of the party that has majority or plurality of seats in the HoRs
Once elected, the PM has nearly absolute authority to appoint/dismiss any
member of cabinet
Japanese PMs – weakest head of government of any liberal democracy
Limits placed by the bureaucracy, factions within political parties, party leaders,
the consensus style of Japanese politics
No PM can serve more than 5 years in office
As in other parliamentary systems, PM and Cabinet are responsible to lower
If the HoRs passes a motion of ‘no confidence’ against the PM/Cabinet, they must
either resign or dissolve the HoRs of call a new election
Interestingly, the average tenure of office of PMs in Japan has been just two
years, several serving less than a year
PMs in Japan and Britain have similar powers with few differences
Japanese cabinet cannot have more than 20 members
Japanese cabinet is just an executive committee of the Diet
Japanese ministers protect their department interests first and then comes the
government interest
Cabinet Powers
In addition to the common ones, responsibilities of Japanese cabinet include:
oAdvising and taking responsibility for any of the emperor’s ceremonial
actions (e.g promulgation of laws, and international treaties)
oDesignating the chief justice of the Supreme Court, appointed by emperor
oAppointing all other judges
oApproving expenditure of the state’s reserve/revenue funds
Legislature: The Diet
National assembly called Diet
Has typical lawmaking powers of legislature – powers over budget, vote of
confidence, question time for cabinet members
Two chambers: House of Councilors, House of Representatives
House of Councilors
oUpper house have 242 members serving fixed six years; elections
staggered – half elected every three years
oChaired by a president chosen from among its members
oCurrent house was the replacement of a prewar House of Peers, a replica
of British House of Lords
oOther than representing prefectures, upper house’s role was not clear
oIt can reject bills but HoR can override rejection
oTreaties and budgetary matters do not need its agreement
House of Peers – members included imperial family, hereditary aristocrats, army
representatives and government employees
House of Representatives (HoRs)
oThe lower house is more powerful in the Diet, has 480 members
oFour year term, but last quarter century saw less than three years –
dissolved due to no confidence, cabinet resigned, new elections
oCombination of electoral systems
o300 single-member districts and 180 seats under proportional