Politics in Japan
Politics in Japan has many different aspects. There are two major parties, the Liberal-Democratic Party and the Social Democratic Party. The LDP dominates government for most of the time, but in recent years the coalition has included the New Komeito Party. Regional centers administer many prefectures. Regional centers are composed of several mayors and regional council members who are elected by a majority of voters. While they are not formally part of the government, they do control several major policies.
Prime Minister is a civilian
In Japanese politics, the Prime Minister is a civilian and he is de jure the chief executive. While the nominal head of state of a constitutional monarchy is the monarch, they are bound by convention to act on the advice of the cabinet. The Japanese constitution explicitly vests executive power in the Cabinet, led by the prime minister. Most laws and orders of the Cabinet must be countersigned by the monarch. In contrast, most parliamentary democracies grant the prime minister some freedom of action.
The 1947 constitution incorporated Article 9 regarding the position. By the time of the Abe cabinet, the imperial army had been disbanded. Many of its leaders had been convicted of war crimes. However, a new military was established in 1954, called the Self-Defense Forces, with the mission of defending the nation. It cooperates with other nations to meet its international security goals. Among other changes, the new constitution prohibited military members from serving in the highest positions of government. It also gave governmental authority to democratically elected officials, and a new agency was created to oversee the nation's defense planning.
The Japanese government is made up of three tiers, including the National Diet. The National Diet elects the Prime Minister, who appoints ministers of state. The Cabinet Office is the executive branch of the government, and the 11 Ministries are called cabinet ministries. The Cabinet office oversees the various departments and ministries in the government. The Prime Minister must have the confidence of the House of Representatives in order to govern.
The LDP's dominance in Japanese politics has been a constant source of controversy. The Recruit scandal of 1988 brought down a number of high-ranking LDP officials and left the party's image in tatters. However, the scandal didn't signal a major change in Japan's politics, as the LDP won 275 of 512 seats in the February 1990 general election. While a rift remains between the two parties, the LDP has managed to regain control of the government.
The LDP's popularity stems from skillful economic and social management. Efforts to create a strong constituency base and direct spending of huge resources on campaigning are some of the reasons why the party receives a large number of votes. The party also receives a large amount of external funding, with more than a quarter of its funds coming from private sources. This is significant because most voters in Japan equate the LDP's governing style with that of theirs.
The LDP is an ideologically diverse party, and its members have no clear ideological beliefs. Historically, the LDP identified with the values of a prosperous, export-based economy, close cooperation with the United States, and administrative reform. Streamlining government bureaucracy, privatizing state-owned enterprises, and reforming taxes have been some of the party's hallmarks. The LDP aims to keep Japan on the right track and the world at large.
LDP-Liberal coalition expanded to include the New Komeito Party
The LDP-Liberal coalition has widened its base to include the New Komeito Party, the country's largest opposition party. The coalition aims to win elections by strengthening its coalition with the Democratic Party for the People and the New Komeito Party, which has its own ideology. However, despite its expanded base, the LDP-Liberal coalition faces many challenges.
After forming a coalition with the Liberal Party, the LDP remained prime minister, but later expanded to include the New Komeito. The LDP-Liberal coalition expanded to include the New Komeito Party in October 1999, making a three-party coalition possible. In the June 2000 Lower House elections, the three-party coalition retained its majority, but lost the coveted two-third majority. A new lower house election will be held in June 2004.
While the LDP-Komeito coalition has not faced the same problems in elections as their predecessors, it is unique in its codependency. This coalition is largely sustained by incentives generated by the mixed electoral system. Mutual stand-down agreements mean that LDP candidates depend on the support of Komeito members in order to be elected to the Diet. The result is that many Komeito Diet members would not have been elected if competing candidates had run against LDP candidates.
While the LDP-Komeito coalition is unlikely to break apart, it does provide a useful example of how political cooperation can be fruitful. The two parties have a long-term history together, and the coalition has continued to grow since it was formed 20 years ago. They have even extracted important policy concessions from the LDP. This partnership is highly unusual in Japan, where coalition politics are so complicated that the parties rarely cooperate on important issues.
Regional centres administer several prefectures
Japan is a nation divided into nine main regions and 47 smaller prefectures. While the prefectures themselves have no definite boundaries, they were traditionally ordered by geographic region and numbered from north to south. They were also used as information centers, offering information about local economy, industry, science, culture, geography, and environment. In the Japanese system, regional centres administer several prefectures, with the exception of Tokyo.
Japan's local government system consists of prefectures and municipalities. Each prefecture has its own administrative jurisdiction, led by a directly-elected governor. In addition, each prefecture has its own separate budget and ordinances. Prefectures were created in the 1868 Meiji Fuhanken sanchisei administration, which replaced the rural and urban administrations controlled by the Tokugawa shogunate, the last feudal military government in Japan. By 1871, all of Japan had been divided into prefectures.
While most people associate prefectures with cities, in Japan, each region has its own distinct identity. A region is often associated with its flora and fauna, and these local symbols are woven into popular culture. In Japan, certain flora and fauna are associated with seasons - for example, cherry blossom trees are associated with spring, while maple trees are associated with autumn. The seasonal blossoming of trees is an important cultural activity.
Elections in Japan
The electoral system in Japan has changed drastically over the past several decades. Single-seat constituencies require three million yen to stand for election. Proportional representation requires two million yen. Both tiers have different procedures for electing members. The Japanese Diet requires "three ban" to gain seats: local power, name recognition, and financial stability. While some voters still hesitate to back new candidates, some are beginning to rebel against entrenched politicians. Demonstrations and grassroots movements have grown in popularity. However, opposition parties find it difficult to recruit qualified, talented local candidates.
The LDP - a conservative political party - has long been the dominant party in Japanese politics. The party was founded in 1955 and has dominated the country's political system since 1963. Until 1976, the LDP controlled a majority of House of Representatives seats. In the subsequent years, however, the LDP lost its majority, but continued to rule without a coalition partner. In 1983, the LDP entered a coalition with the New Liberal Club (or Shin-Jiyu-kurabu) and secured a majority of 141 seats. Although the LDP held a small majority of seats, this was more than enough to ensure a parliamentary majority.
The Japanese political system has a complicated system of campaigns. Campaigns are usually characterized by loudspeakers and small groups of supporters walking neighborhoods with campaign posters. There are also campaign speeches held on flatbed trucks with cheering squads chanting in the background. Candidates, on the other hand, hold microphones taped to their chests and deliver short speeches while pumping their fists in the air during rallies. Candidates for the house of councilors and representatives must be at least twenty-five years old. The cost of running for political office in Japan has also been criticized for its high cost.
Local residents elect head of local governmental units
In Japan, a representative government has two parts: the central government and local governing units. The central government is a centralized body with limited legislative and executive powers, and the local government has a direct representation of the population. Local government units are typically elected by local residents. In Japan, local government units have differing levels of autonomy, depending on the size and makeup of the community. The head of a local government unit must be elected by local residents.
Japan is an advanced industrial country, but the percentage of working population in local governments is very low compared to many advanced countries. In the United States, for example, only 15 percent of the population is employed by local governments. In addition, local government employees are not fully utilized for administrative duties, resulting in a low number of bureaucrats per municipality. The fundamental principles for local government administration are contained in the Local Public Service Law and the Local Autonomy Law, though the pay systems differ widely.
The Japanese system of decentralization is unique among other modern countries. However, the decentralization process in Japan has its challenges. It requires better quality local government employees to ensure the quality of local services. It also requires that local governments meet national minimum standards for their employees, while focusing on the needs of the local community. The following articles will outline the specific challenges and solutions for the decentralization of Japanese local government.